Pluto Mission Will Fly on an Atlas V

Article written: 25 Jul , 2003
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Image credit: NASA/JHU

The first robotic mission to launch to the planet Pluto will be on board an Atlas V rocket, according to NASA. The New Horizons mission, built by NASA, the Southwest Research Institute and Johns Hopkins University is scheduled to take off in January 2006 and wouldn’t reach the planet until 2015. New Horizons will take the first high-resolution photographs of Pluto, and help to answer key questions about its surface, atmosphere, and environment.

NASA has chosen the Atlas V expendable launch vehicle provided by Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services, Inc. as the launch system for the proposed Pluto New Horizons mission. The mission is scheduled for launch to Pluto in January 2006. As proposed, the Pluto New Horizons mission is a scientific investigation to obtain the first reconnaissance of Pluto-Charon, a binary planet system.

This will be a firm fixed-price launch service task order awarded under the terms of the current NASA Launch Services contract. The prime contractor will be Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services, Inc.; a constituent company of International Launch Services and legal contracting entity for Atlas launch services, located in McLean, Va.

New Horizons would seek to answer key scientific questions regarding the surfaces, atmospheres, interiors, and space environments of Pluto and Charon using imaging, visible and infrared spectral mapping, ultraviolet spectroscopy, radio science, and in-situ plasma sensors. The Principal Investigator is Dr. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo. The implementing institution is the Applied Physics Laboratory of The Johns Hopkins University, Laurel, Md. The proposed mission would use a spacecraft supplied Star 48B based 3rd Stage, manufactured by The Boeing Company of Huntington Beach, Calif., to achieve the required mission performance.

Original Source: NASA News Release


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