|With the passing of each day in September, one could feel the season changing. In Maryland and Colorado, where I have spent about equal amounts of time the past year, the mornings are noticeably cooler and the leaves have begun to fall. So too, as the days and weeks of September passed, New Horizons planned to enter a new season as well — its launch campaign.
By the end of the third week of the month, all of the testing that we'd planned to complete at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center had wrapped up. Simply put, there wasn't much more we could do for New Horizons in Maryland — where the spacecraft had been born, and where it had been thoroughly tested.
After a year in assembly and initial test at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (APL), and then 14 weeks of environmental testing at Goddard Space Flight Center, it was time to move New Horizons south, to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and Cape Canaveral.
New Horizons received its "GO" to ship to the Cape at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 22, after a formal, in-depth 11-hour review of testing status and shipping plans that NASA calls the "Pre-Ship Review." It had taken us just 46 months from proposal selection to reach this point.
Because of advance planning, it was possible to begin moving ground support equipment down the KSC the same day that we received permission to ship. APL and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) personnel also began to move, some by car, some by air.