| | Published 18 March 2011
KinetX Provides Key Navigation Support for NASA Mission to Orbit Mercury
On the evening of March 17, 2011, NASAs MESSENGER spacecraft fired its main engine for 15 minutes
to perform a Mercury capture maneuver and became the first spacecraft in history to orbit the innermost
planet to the Sun.
This event marks the culmination of over six and a half years of interplanetary cruise in an
ever-tightening spiral toward Mercury, where MESSENGER performed six gravity-assist planet flybys: one
of Earth, two of Venus, and three of Mercury itself. It also marks the beginning of a planned
one-year mission to perform unprecedented scientific measurements of the planet Mercury at close
range. Throughout the entire time, KinetX, Inc. personnel have performed key navigation functions
for MESSENGER in guiding the spacecraft to Mercury, from its launch on the earth, throughout its
trajectory including the gravity assisted flybys, and by determining the orbit and predicting its future
evolution, first about the Sun and then about the planet Mercury. This support also included plans
for a wide range of recovery options in case anything went wrong with the March 17th maneuver.
The KinetX navigation team processes radiometric tracking measurements from NASAs Deep Space
Network tracking antennas to perform orbit determination for MESSENGER. In addition, KinetX works
with mission and spacecraft engineers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory to
perform various trajectory corrections, including designing, monitoring and reconstructing propulsive
maneuvers, planetary encounters or gravity assists, and spacecraft attitude manipulation to utilize
solar radiation pressure for flight maneuvering, sometimes described as solar sailing.
KinetX, Inc. is the first commercial entity to provide spacecraft navigation services for a NASA
interplanetary mission and is currently also providing similar navigation services for the New Horizons
mission to Pluto.
KinetX, Inc. is an aerospace technologies firm of 70 employees providing software, systems, and hardware
engineering and development, and is a recognized leader of deep space engineering and operational
navigation for the government and commercial aerospace market. The company plays key roles in
advanced aerospace programs, including the Iridium® global satellite communications system and
several Department of Defense programs for communications and UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle)
systems. KinetX is headquartered in Tempe, Arizona. Its Space Navigation and Flight Dynamics
group, directed by Dr. Bobby Williams, has offices in Simi Valley, California.
For further information please email the company President and CEO, Kjell Stakkestad, at
email@example.com. The company website is
www.kinetx.com, and the headquarters phone number is 480-829-6600.
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