Pluto, Kuiper Belt Objects & Comets

The solar system’s distant, icy frontier

Stretching from the orbit of Neptune to 50 times the distance between Earth and the Sun, the Kuiper Belt is a remote, donut-shaped region of space that’s littered with icy worlds, including comets and the solar system’s famous small planet Pluto. It’s a scientifically rich frontier, replete with objects carrying details from the solar system’s formation. APL has been at the forefront of exploring this distant province, designing and operating NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft—the farthest planetary exploration mission to date—as well as several of its instruments, including the imager that brought us the first close-up views of Pluto’s surface.


APL has designed, built and operated more than 70 innovative spacecraft over its six decades of spaceflight experience. Click below to learn about some of the missions that made revolutionary discoveries, and spacecraft that will push the boundaries of exploration and investigate outstanding scientific mysteries.


Scientists and engineers at APL have designed, built and operated more than 300 novel space instruments and methods to conduct cutting-edge research and make groundbreaking discoveries. Click below to learn about some of these instruments and their role in shaping our understanding of space and the solar system.


Go inside APL’s space missions and research, and check out the latest news, features and discoveries from the teams that are probing mysteries from the Sun to the edge of the solar system and beyond.