Now almost halfway through its NASA-funded
Phase B development effort, the New Horizons project is making significant
progress as it approaches its first major review.

Principal Investigator Dr. Alan Stern, director of the Space Studies
Department of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), the home institution of
the New Horizons mission, recently summarized the progress. “The team is
meeting all of its planned milestones and, as the spacecraft design has
become more detailed, we’ve actually been able to increase our power and
data storage margins; we have a healthy amount of launch mass reserve as

“That’s a remarkable achievement for any project. New Horizons is off to a
very good start,” adds vice president of the SwRI Space Science and
Engineering Division, Dr. James L. Burch.

The New Horizons team also has, with NASA’s agreement, begun purchasing
parts with long fabrication times for the scientific instruments that will
examine Pluto, its moon Charon, and the Kuiper Belt, selecting the upper
stage rocket needed to place the spacecraft on its trajectory to the very
edge of the planetary system, and refining the mission trajectory and
encounter plan.

“We are now approaching a project review called the SRR, or Systems
Requirements Review. This is a formal step in every major NASA mission
development effort, and we are looking forward to it,” says New Horizons
Payload Manager William Gibson, also of SwRI. “We here at SwRI, our
colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Maryland
where the spacecraft will be built and operated, and our partners at
industrial sites, NASA labs, and universities across the country have been
hard at work refining mission, spacecraft, and instrument designs in advance
of this review, which will take place May 15 and 16.”

In other project-related news, NASA’s highest-level advisory panel for
planetary science, the Solar System Exploration Subcommittee, just this
month reiterated to NASA its view that New Horizons is its highest priority
mission for outer solar system exploration, stressing the necessity for the
mission to continue toward its time-critical January 2006 launch. Public
support of the mission have been recently published by The Planetary Society
and a host of leading editorial voices in the space and science journalism
community, including Aviation Week & Space Technology, Scientific American,
Astronomy, and Nature magazines. “We are grateful for and very proud of this
support and for SSES’s recommendation to NASA — and for the various
editorials in the press — it’s wonderful to see such consistently strong
community and public support for the project,” says Stern.

Editors: More information and links related to the New Horizons project can
be found at or A student-led web
site that has sent thousands of messages to Congress to “Save the Pluto
mission” can be accessed at


SwRI is an independent, nonprofit, applied research and development
organization based in San Antonio, Texas, with more than 2,700 employees and
an annual research volume of more than $319 million.