The Science Payload
The New Horizons spacecraft carries a payload of seven scientific instruments. These instruments will allow NASA scientists to investigate the surface geology, composition, atmospheric pressure, and temperature of Pluto and its moons.
- Ralph: Ralph is an optical instrument that can record in both visible and infrared light. Its primary use will be in mapping surfaces and providing thermal images.
- Alice: Alice is an optical instrument that is sensitive to ultraviolet light. It will be used to study atmospheric composition and structure.
- REX (Radio Science Experiment): REX consists of a small circuit with a crystal oscillator that can measure atmospheric temperature and pressure.
- LORRI (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager): LORRI is basically a digital camera that is connected to a large telephoto telescope. It will be used to provide long-range and high-resolution mapping imagery.
- SWAP (Solar Wind Around Pluto): SWAP is a spectrometer that measures Pluto’s interaction with the solar wind.
- PEPSSI (Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation): PEPSSI is an energetic particle spectrometer that will detect particles that escape from Pluto’s atmosphere.
- SDC (Venetia Burney Student Dust Collector): The SDC measures the dust particle concentrations that the spacecraft encounters during its long voyage. The SDC is named in honor of Venetia Burney, the eleven-year-old schoolgirl who named Pluto. The SDC was built by students at the University of Colorado.
The RTG or Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, provides electrical power for the spacecraft by converting the heat generated by the decay of plutonium-238 (Pu-238) fuel into electricity.