NASA has selected the Lockheed Martin Atlas V to launch the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and the New Horizons spacecraft, which is to explore Pluto. An Atlas V-551 with 5m (16ft) payload fairing and five solid rocket boosters (SRB) will be used for the New Horizons launch in 2006, while the MRO will be launched in 2005 by an Atlas V-401 booster with 4m fairing and no boosters. The New Horizons mission is under threat from the US House of Representatives, which is to vote on a measure to cut $55 million from the proposed 2004 budget of $130 million. An Atlas V-521 was flown on 12 July, carrying the Rainbow 1 communications satellite

Source: Flight International