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.