KinetX Aerospace — Providing Visionary, Highly Prized Engineering in Support of Space- and Earth-Based Endeavors



Space Navigation and Flight Dynamics


Currently, SNAFD is executing the navigation of two missions for NASA’s Exploration Systems division.  These are the MESSENGER mission to Mercury and the New Horizons mission to Pluto.  Both missions have launched, with MESSENGER underway since August 2, 2004, and New Horizons since January 19, 2006.  KinetX Aerospace is the only organization besides Caltech’s JPL to navigate an interplanetary mission.  On each mission, KinetX Aerospace works very closely with and for Mission Operations at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.



The MESSENGER mission is the first exploration of Mercury since Mariner 10, 44 years ago.  Mariner 10 discovered a magnetic field around Mercury, the only planet besides Earth of the “rocky” planets – Mars, Earth, Venus and Mercury – to possess such a field.  In order to study this and other aspects of the innermost planet of the solar system, the mission plan entails sending MESSENGER into orbit around Mercury for one year.  To avoid the immense gravity of the Sun, MESSENGER will approach Mercury in a tangential manner, with several intermediate planetary flybys, including Earth, Venus and Mercury itself.  This approach, the most complex trajectory ever devised for interplanetary travel, will allow MESSENGER to slip into orbit around the Sun-baked planet.

3rd and Final Mercury Flyby - NASA Photo

New Horizons

New Horizons

New Horizons is the first-ever mission to Pluto and will study the composition and atmosphere of Pluto and its moon, Charon.  In addition, New Horizons intends to search for Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) in a region beyond Pluto.  KBOs that have been dragged into orbits that pass very close to the Sun are thought by some astronomers to account for certain comets that visit the earth periodically, such as Halley’s.  New Horizons data is intended to tell astronomers whether Pluto itself is perhaps a KBO that has been drawn out of the Kuiper Belt.

Trajectories of New Horizons
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