The New Horizons mission will help us understand worlds at the edge of our solar system by making the first reconnaissance of the Pluto system and by venturing deeper into the distant, mysterious Kuiper Belt – a relic of solar system formation.

Mission Timeline



Jupiter for a gravity boost


Pluto closest approach


Launch Date:

The science payload includes seven instruments:

Ralph: Visible and infrared imager/spectrometer; provides color, composition and thermal maps.

Alice: Ultraviolet imaging spectrometer; analyzes composition and structure of Pluto’s atmosphere and looks for atmospheres around Charon and Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs).

REX: (Radio Science EXperiment) Measures atmospheric composition and temperature; passive radiometer.

LORRI: (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) telescopic camera; obtains encounter data at long distances, maps Pluto’s farside and provides high resolution geologic data.

SWAP: (Solar Wind Around Pluto) Solar wind and plasma spectrometer; measures atmospheric “escape rate” and observes Pluto’s interaction with solar wind.

PEPSSI: (Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation) Energetic particle spectrometer; measures the composition and density of plasma (ions) escaping from Pluto’s atmosphere.

SDC: (Student Dust Counter) Built and operated by students; measures the space dust peppering New Horizons during its voyage across the solar system.

New Horizons Spacecraft

New Horizons Spacecraft

Mission type Pluto flyby; 2014 MU69 flyby
Operator NASA
COSPAR ID 2006-001A
SATCAT № 28928
Mission duration Primary mission: 9.5 years
Spacecraft properties
Manufacturer APL · Southwest Research Institute
Launch mass 478 kilograms (1,054 lb)
Power 228 watts
Start of mission
Launch date January 19, 2006 19:00 UTC
(9 years, 9 months and 27 days ago)
Rocket Atlas V 551
Launch site Cape Canaveral SLC-41
Contractor International Launch Services
Flyby of Moon
Closest approach January 20, 2006 04:00 UTC
(9 years, 9 months and 26 days ago)
Distance 189,916 km (118,008 mi)
Flyby of (132524) APL (incidental)
Closest approach June 13, 2006 04:05 UTC
(9 years, 5 months and 2 days ago)
Distance 101,867 km (63,297 mi)
Flyby of Jupiter (Gravity assist)
Closest approach February 28, 2007 05:43:40 UTC
(8 years, 8 months and 18 days ago)
Distance 2,300,000 km (1,400,000 mi)
Flyby of Pluto
Closest approach July 14, 2015 11:49:57 UTC
(4 months and 1 day ago)
Distance 12,500 km (7,800 mi)
Flyby of 2014 MU69
Closest approach January 1, 2019. There are 3 years, 6weeks, 5 days, 7 hours and 2 seconds until 2014 MU69 approach. (refresh)