New Horizon is now en-route for next target.

New Horizon has completed the four maneuvers necessary to direct it to its next target. New Horizons is approximately 120 million kilometres beyond Pluto (which it approached on the 14th of July) and 5.08 billion kilometers from Earth.

The maneuvers will change New Horizons’ trajectory by approximately 57 meters per second, nudging it towards a prospective close encounter with MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019. That flyby would be part of an extended mission that NASA must still approve; the New Horizons team will submit a formal proposal to NASA for that mission in early 2016.

MU69 is a classic Kuiper Belt object with a diameter of 30-45 kilometres. It has a low eccentricity (it’s orbit is almost circular) and low inclination, indicating that it has not suffered significant disturbance since its formation at the dawn of the solar system.

MU69 is an ideal candidate to study the primordial conditions and the objects that populated the protoplanetary nebula which gave birth to the solar system.

Artist's impression of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Pluto-like object in the distant Kuiper Belt. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Steve Gribben)

Artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Pluto-like object in the distant Kuiper Belt. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Steve Gribben)

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