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On January 19, 2006, New Horizons was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station by an Atlas V rocket directly into an Earth-and-solar escape trajectory with a speed of about 16.26 kilometers per second (10.10 mi/s; 58,500 km/h; 36,400 mph).

After a brief encounter with asteroid 132524 APL, New Horizons proceeded to Jupiter, making its closest approach on February 28, 2007, at a distance of 2.3 million kilometers (1.4 million miles).

New Horizons body forms a triangle, almost 0.76 m (2.5 ft) thick.

(The Pioneers have hexagonal bodies, whereas the Voyagers, Galileo, and Cassini–Huygens have decagonal, hollow bodies.) A 7075 aluminium alloy tube forms the main structural column, between the launch vehicle adapter ring at the "rear," and the 2.1 m (6 ft 11 in) radio dish antenna affixed to the "front" flat side. The RTG attaches with a 4-sided titanium mount resembling a gray pyramid or stepstool. The rest of the triangle is primarily sandwich panels of thin aluminium facesheet (less than in or 0.40 mm) bonded to aluminium honeycomb core.

Some of the questions the mission attempts to answer are: What is Pluto's atmosphere made of and how does it behave? which also carried a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) and dish on a box-in-box structure through the outer Solar System.

Many subsystems and components have flight heritage from APL's CONTOUR spacecraft, which in turn had heritage from APL's TIMED spacecraft.

the spacecraft was launched in 2006 with the primary mission to perform a flyby study of the Pluto system in 2015, and a secondary mission to fly by and study one or more other Kuiper belt objects (KBOs) in the decade to follow.

It is the fifth artificial object to achieve the escape velocity needed to leave the Solar System.

It was later selected as one of two finalists to be subject to a three-month concept study, in June 2001.

NASA's Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate Ed Weiler prompted Stern to lobby for the funding of New Horizons in hopes of the mission appearing in the Planetary Science Decadal Survey; a prioritized "wish list", compiled by the United States National Research Council, that reflects the opinions of the scientific community.

After an intense campaign to gain support for New Horizons, the Planetary Science Decadal Survey of 2003–2013 was published in the summer of 2002.

The mission's principal investigator is Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (formerly NASA Associate Administrator).

After separation from the launch vehicle, overall control was taken by Mission Operations Center (MOC) at the Applied Physics Laboratory in Howard County, Maryland.


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