New Horizons: The First Reconnaissance Mission to Bodies in the Kuiper Belt
NASA has long been planning a mission of exploration to Pluto-Charon and the Kuiper Belt (e.g., Terrile et al., 1997). In 2001 NASA selected such a mission (NASA, 2001), called New Horizons, for design and development. New Horizons is now funded and planning a launch in January 2006. The mission plans to carry 8 scientific sensors and make flybys of Pluto-Charon and one or more KBOs. Statistical Monte Carlo simulations indicate that New Horizons has sufficient fuel to reach one or more KBOs with diameters exceeding 35 km. If launched as planned in 2006, the mission will use a Jovian gravity assist, arriving at Pluto-Charon in 2015 or 2016; if launched in its backup window in 2007, a Jovian gravity assist is not feasible and arrival will be later – 2019. Below we briefly summarize the New Horizons mission, concentrating on its role in Kuiper Belt exploration.
KeywordsMonte Carlo Simulation Kuiper Belt Scientific Sensor Reconnaissance Mission Horizon Mission
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