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.