New Horizons enters hibernation

After two and a half years of being “awake,” the spacecraft is finally getting a break.
By | Published: April 11, 2017 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
An artist’s rendering of New Horizons from the Launch Press Kit.

After getting halfway to its next target, New Horizons entered a well-deserved hibernation on April 7.

New Horizons was launched in January 2006 and headed to explore Pluto. Between the last hibernation and entering its current hibernation, New Horizons had been “awake” for 852 days for the Pluto flyby and the 16 months following to send data back to Earth.

Now the spacecraft is on its way to the Kuiper Belt to study Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69 in January 2019. While New Horizons is in hibernation, which is scheduled to end on September 11, the science and mission operations teams will be busy planning the MU69 flyby and deciding on flyby altitudes.

Most of New Horizons will be unpowered during its 157-day hibernation, but the onboard flight computer will continue checking in on the craft’s health and safety and send reports back to Earth once a month.