New Horizons: Pluto/Charon
Artists concept of the New Horizons spacecraft during its planned encounter with Pluto and its moon, Charon. The crafts miniature cameras, radio science experiment, ultraviolet and infrared spectrometers and space plasma experiments would characterize the global geology and geomorphology of Pluto and Charon, map their surface compositions and temperatures, and examine Plutos atmosphere in detail. The spacecrafts most prominent design feature is a nearly 7-foot (2.1-meter) dish antenna, through which it would communicate with Earth from as far as 4.7 billion miles (7.5 billion kilometers) away. Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute (JHUAPL/SwRI)
APL-Built Pluto Mission Spacecraft Shipped to NASA Goddard for Pre-launch Tests
The first spacecraft designed to study Pluto, the solar system’s farthest planet, took the first steps on a long journey today when it was shipped from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. — where it was designed and built — to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., for its next round of pre-launch tests.
Proposed for launch in January 2006, the New Horizons spacecraft spent the past week in an APL vibration test lab, where engineers checked the structural integrity of the piano-sized probe aboard a large shake table. The table simulated the energetic ride New Horizons would encounter during liftoff aboard an Atlas V – one of the largest launch vehicles NASA uses.
Michael Buckley | EurekAlert!
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