New Horizons ready for launch
Posted: Mon, Jan 16, 2006, 7:10 AM ET (1210 GMT)
All systems are go for Tuesday's launch of NASA's New Horizons mission to the distant planet Pluto, project officials said Sunday. An Atlas 5 is scheduled to launch the 465-kilogram spacecraft Tuesday at 1:24 pm EST (1824 GMT), at the beginning of a two-hour launch window. The mission passed its final pre-launch review on Sunday, and the launch vehicle will be rolled out to the pad Monday morning. Officials said that there are no problems with the fuel tank of the Atlas 5's first stage after inspections that delayed the launch six days. The inspections were prompted after a similar tank failed a qualification test at the factory; that tank was subjected to forces far more severe than what the tank on this rocket will be exposed to. New Horizons will be the fastest spacecraft ever to leave Earth upon launch, and will fly past Jupiter in early 2007. The spacecraft will fly past Pluto in mid-2015, after which project scientists hope to have the spacecraft fly past one or more Kuiper Belt objects.
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