Construction to Begin on NASA Spacecraft Set to Visit Asteroid in 2018


NASA's team that will conduct the first U.S. mission to collect samples from an asteroid has been given the go-ahead to begin building the spacecraft, flight instruments and ground system, and launch support facilities.

This determination was made Wednesday after a successful Mission Critical Design Review (CDR) for NASA’s Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx). The CDR was held at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Littleton, Colo., April 1-9. An independent review board, comprised of experts from NASA and several external organizations, met to review the system design.

"This is the final step for a NASA mission to go from paper to product,” said Gordon Johnston, OSIRIS-REx program executive at NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC. “This confirms that the final design is ready to start the build-up towards launch.”

OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to launch in the fall of 2016, rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu in 2018 and return a sample of it to Earth in 2023. The spacecraft carries five instruments that will remotely evaluate the surface of Bennu. After more than a year of asteroid reconnaissance, the spacecraft will collect samples of at least 2 ounces (60 grams) and return them to Earth for scientists to study.

"Successfully passing mission CDR is a major accomplishment, but the hard part is still in front of us — building, integrating and testing the flight system in support of a tight planetary launch window," said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Written By: NASA
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  1. They are seeking a small sample return and some trajectory data. (I suppose a small sample coming Earth now is better than the possibility of a very large sample later!!)

    101955 Bennu (provisional designation 1999 RQ36)[6] is an Apollo asteroid discovered by the LINEAR Project on September 11, 1999. It is the planned target of the OSIRIS-REx mission which is intended to return samples to Earth for further study.[7] It is a potential Earth impactor and is listed on the Sentry Risk Table with the second highest rating on the Palermo Technical Impact Hazard Scale.[8]

    101955 Bennu has a mean diameter of approximately 493 meters and has been observed extensively with the Arecibo Observatory Planetary Radar and the Goldstone Deep Space Network.[2][3][9]

    A recent dynamical study by Andrea Milani and collaborators has located a series of eight potential Earth impacts between 2169 and 2199. The cumulative probability of impact is dependent on poorly known physical properties of the object, but is not higher than 0.07% for all eight encounters.[10] To accurately assess 101955 Bennu’s probability of Earth impact will require a detailed shape model of 101955 Bennu and additional observations (either from the ground or from spacecraft visiting the object) to determine the magnitude of the Yarkovsky acceleration. On average, an asteroid with a diameter of 500 meters can be expected to impact Earth about every 130,000 years or so.

    There is a nice little video on the Wiki link, showing the sample collection and return.

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