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If the New Horizons team doesn't find a KBO target for the probe, can they turn it into an orbiter for the Pluto system? I know entering orbit right now would be impossible, but would it be possible to achieve this by making a first fly by, turning back and getting some help from Saturn or Jupiter in the future years?

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See this video of New Horizon's trajectory. After it flies by Pluto, it's not coming back. It's leaving the solar system on a hyperbolic trajectory.

Edit: If the hyperbolic periapsis was moved to within 10 km of Pluto's surface, the turning angle would be increased to about .4 degrees. Not much of a path change, not sufficient to send it back towards one of the gas giants.

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  • $\begingroup$ my question was if this trajectory can still be modified to make a closer approach to Pluto, make a gravity slingshot to propel it back to Jupiter or Saturn in order to make a come back in a few years as an orbiter for Pluto $\endgroup$ – symbiotech May 29 '14 at 3:57
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    $\begingroup$ If the hyperbolic periapsis was moved to within 10 km of Pluto's surface, the turning angle would be increased to about .4 degrees. Not much of a path change, not sufficient to send it back towards one of the gas giants. $\endgroup$ – HopDavid May 29 '14 at 5:04
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It is my understanding that New Horizons does not have sufficient reactive control energy to establish an orbit about Pluto.

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    $\begingroup$ Hi Willy and welcome to the Space stack exchange. You're quite right with your answer, but if possible try and provide a reference/ calculation to support your answers! $\endgroup$ – ThePlanMan Jul 21 '15 at 16:49

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