NASA's first mission to Pluto has sailed past another critical milestone, as the New Horizons team successfully completed its second major system-level evaluation. New Horizons held its Preliminary Design Review Oct. 22-24 at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., which manages the mission for NASA.
A panel of spacecraft and system engineering experts from APL, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Southwest Research Institute examined New Horizons' mission plans and spacecraft design - concluding each are reaching their anticipated level of maturity and that the project is ready to proceed.
"New Horizons has continued to make substantial progress since its first requirements review five months ago," says Eric Hoffman, the APL Space Department's chief engineer, who chaired the 10-member review panel. "New Horizons has validated its preliminary design and the team can move ahead with more detailed design activities."
The New Horizons spacecraft team plans to start construction next year, after additional reviews in the spring. Long lead-time parts are already being ordered. The science instruments underwent design reviews in August and remain on track for completion by summer 2004.
"We are on schedule and well within budget," says New Horizons Project Manager Thomas Coughlin, of APL. "We are exactly where we intended to be.
This is a great team and we're ready to get on with this mission."
New Horizons is working toward a January 2006 launch; it also has backup launch opportunities in February 2006 and February 2007. Depending on the launch vehicle NASA selects - the agency is expected to choose either a Delta IV or an Atlas V by early next year - New Horizons could arrive at Pluto and its moon, Charon, as early as 2015.
If launched in January 2006, as planned, it will swing past Jupiter for a gravity boost and scientific studies in 2007. After exploring Pluto-Charon, the spacecraft will encounter up to three other objects in the Kuiper Belt.
New Horizons is the first mission to Pluto, its moon, Charon, and the Kuiper Belt of rocky, icy objects beyond.
Southwest Research Institute
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
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The Bizarre "Pluto War" Is Almost Over At Last, And Pluto Is Winning
Los Angeles - Oct 10, 2002
On Tuesday, October 8, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies (including NASA) announced in a press release that it favors providing an additional $105 million next year to fund development of the "New Horizons" mission that will flyby Pluto mid next decade.
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