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May 03 2015

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Bravo Zulu to my KinetX bubbas!!

KinetX Aerospace Navigates MESSENGER through Final Mission Phase

This is one of the reasons I was following MESSENGER so closely — I’ve got a lot of friends over a KinetX. They’re the only entity outside of NASA that does deep-space navigation, and they do such a great job of not only navigating, but extending missions with outside-the-box thinking.

During the final mission phase the spacecraft skimmed over the surface, approaching as low as 5 km above the planet, providing unprecedented opportunities to collect extraordinarily high-resolution images and science data. Navigating a spacecraft so close to a planet’s surface had never been attempted before and was fraught with risk. An onboard laser altimeter provided excellent confirmation of the KinetX navigation team’s altitude predictions, and the hover campaign has been a huge success, capping off one of the most successful missions in the history of space exploration.

“The MESSENGER mission presented new technical challenges for mission design and navigation that were successfully met through close cooperation and innovation by the APL and KinetX flight operations teams,” said Dr. Bobby Williams, who leads the KinetX Space Navigation and Flight Dynamics group in Simi Valley, California.

The Principal Investigator for the MESSENGER mission, Prof. Sean Solomon of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, praised the work of the KinetX team by saying, “With five major propulsive maneuvers and 16 trajectory-correction maneuvers prior to orbit insertion, as well as 18 orbit-correction maneuvers once in orbit, the MESSENGER mission has kept our navigation team on their toes for more than a decade.

The KinetX team has been fully up to the task. They have been an integral part of the engineering and mission operations teams that have enabled an outstanding scientific return from the MESSENGER project.”

They’re also the team navigating New Horizons to Pluto and beyond. Any commercial company looking to send missions outside of Earth’s gravity well (Planetary Resources, DSI, ect) would be well-advised to give KinetX a call…just sayin’

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/05/03/bravo-zulu-to-my-kinetx-bubbas/

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