(The Gist of Science Reporter) The Seven Commandos [MAY-2019]

(The Gist of Science Reporter) The Seven Commandos [MAY-2019]

The Seven Commandos

  • New Horizons operates on seven incredible scientific instruments each drawing an average power of 2 to 10 watts (comparable to that of a night bulb);
  • 1. The navigator: Gyros. Star Trackers and Sun Sensors ensure the craft cruises in a spin-stabilised mode for most of the interplanetary travels; while a three axis pointing mode provides calibration and course corrections during flybys.
  • 2. The Commander: Also called the brain of the craft. K comprises a Command and Data Handling system, with a radiation-hardened processor and complex flight software. This processor signals each subsystem, collects and processes the instrument's data and sequences it to be beamed to the Earth, it is also loaded with autonomous algorithms to correct and seek help from Earth if necessary.
  • 3. The Protector: Designed like a thermos flask, the Thermal Control Unit contains the heat from the electronics to keep the system warm at an average of 10-30 degrees Celsius throughout its journey despite harsh conditions. For this, the probe had specially designed heaters and vents to maintain the optimal temperatures.
  • 4. The Fuel Engineer: Carrying 77 kilos of hydrazine propellant, 16 thrusters spread around eight locations on the craft utilise the fuel for course corrections. Also loaded are eight back-up thrusters.
  • 5. The Guide: Ten times every second, an onboard camera snaps a wide-angle picture of the space ahead. By correlating with the map of 3000 stars, the star-tracking cameras provide input to the Guidance and Control Processor The unit in turn analyses and provides feedback to the command module for adjusting the course,
  • 6. The Communications Expert: New Horizons Communications Unit operates on the X-band to chat with earth, exchange commands, scientific data and inform its status, NASA's Deep Space Tracking antennae positioned at various locations around the globe keep a precise tab on the spacecraft position.
  • 7. The Power Engineer: Powered by the natural radioactive decay of plutonium dioxide fuel, which creates a tremendous amount of heat, the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) provides the necessary electrical energy for the systems. Since the craft does not have a battery system to store power (unlike other crafts), the systems regulate power consumption to maintain a steady output at RTG. The heat shields avoid a direct-line of sight of heat to the instruments which perform optimally at lower temperatures.

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Courtesy: Science Reporter