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New Horizons Arrives in Florida

The New Horizons spacecraft, slated for a January launch and a decade-long journey to Pluto and Charon, has arrived at Kennedy Space Center for final preparations and testing. This follows a four-month series of tests at Goddard Space Flight Center and the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, where the craft was designed and built.

What’s in the immediate future for New Horizons? The October testing period includes readiness checks, tests of instrument functionality and checks on communications via NASA’s Deep Space Network. Hydrazine fuel for attitude control and course correction maneuvers will be loaded in November, and the craft will then undergo a final spin-balance test. A launch countdown rehearsal will be held in November, and in December the spacecraft will be loaded onto the Atlas V rocket that will carry it aloft. Launch is now scheduled for January 11, 2006, with later launch windows available daily between January 12 and February 14.