Ball Aerospace Delivers Imaging Instrument for NASA's Mission to Pluto
April 11, 2005
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. has delivered a high-resolution visible and infrared digital imager/spectrometer to the Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) and its partner The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) for flight aboard NASA's proposed New Horizons Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission. Code-named Ralph, the instrument is designed to collect high resolution black and white and color images, and surface composition and temperature maps of Pluto, its moon Charon, and images of celestial bodies deep in the Kuiper Belt, far beyond Pluto's orbit. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center manages NASA's New Frontiers Program, which includes the Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission. Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) is implementing the mission. Dr. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SWRI), is the mission's principal investigator.
According to President and CEO David Taylor, "Ralph is a critical instrument for the success of the New Horizons mission and a milestone for our company, since it will go deeper into space than any previous spacecraft or instrument built by Ball Aerospace."
As part of the New Horizons mission to Pluto, Ralph is one of seven instruments that will enable scientists to better understand the last unexplored planet at the edge of our solar system. According to Dr. Stern, "Ralph is the centerpiece of the New Horizons payload and it will revolutionize what we know about Pluto, Charon, and Kuiper Belt objects."
Because of Pluto's great distance from the Sun -- 32 times farther than Earth's -- Ralph's digital imaging capabilities are designed to obtain data at light levels 1,000 times more faint than daylight on Earth. Small but robust, Ralph weighs only 24 pounds, and draws less than seven watts of electricity when operating, or just enough to run a household nightlight.
The New Horizons mission is scheduled to launch in January 2006. As a warm-up to Pluto, the spacecraft will also conduct new surveys of Jupiter on its path to the outer reaches of the solar system. The mission is expected to intercept the distant Pluto and Charon in July 2015. After this rendezvous, the spacecraft will then fly deep into the Kuiper Belt, an extensive billion-mile-wide body of miniature planets, comets and debris believed to have been formed at the genesis of the solar system.
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SOURCE: Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.
CONTACT: David Beachley of Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.,
Web site: http://www.ballaerospace.com/