NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT), was successfully launched today at 7:05 p.m. ET from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 411 rocket. The spacecraft has departed Earth and is now on its seven year journey to study near-Earth asteroid Bennu and bring a sample back to Earth.
The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, known as OSIRIS-REx, separated from the rocket’s Centaur upper stage 59 minutes after launch. Soon after, it autonomously deployed its two solar arrays and then turned on its telecommunications radio. Initial communication with the spacecraft was obtained by the mission’s flight operations team at Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ facility near Denver at 8:08 p.m. ET.
“Initial data from the spacecraft show that it’s healthy and is on its proper trajectory,” said Rich Kuhns, OSIRIS-REx spacecraft program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. “Solar array deployment and signal acquisition are the first critical events, and even though we've tested them extensively in Denver, it's wonderful to see the spacecraft performing these smoothly in the initial minutes of its mission.”
OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s first mission to sample an asteroid. Its target is Bennu, a 4.5 billion year old, carbon-rich asteroid that is expected to host organic molecules. Arriving in 2018, it will survey the surface, collect at least 60 grams (2.1 ounces) of surface material and return it to Earth in 2023 for extensive study. Analysis of the material will give insight into the earliest stages of the solar system’s formation and evolution.
“This exciting and successful launch highlights the tireless efforts of the entire OSIRIS-REx team across many organizations,” said Wanda Sigur, vice president and general manager of Civil Space at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. “Sample return of material from out in our solar system is one of the hardest, yet most rewarding types of space science missions, and our team is delighted to help NASA and the OSIRIS-REx team begin the flight to Bennu.”
“With today’s launch, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft embarks on a journey of exploration to Bennu,” said OSIRIS-REx Principal Investigator Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson. “I couldn’t be more proud of the team that made this mission a reality, and I can’t wait to see what we will discover at Bennu.”
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. The University of Arizona leads the science team and observation planning and processing. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages New Frontiers for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Launch and countdown management is the responsibility of NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Source: Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT)
Date: Sep 12, 2016