1. International Instrument Delivered for NASA’s 2016 Asteroid Sample Return Mission

    December 17, 2015 -

    A sophisticated laser-based mapping instrument has arrived at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver for integration onto NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft.

    The OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA), contributed by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), will create 3-D maps of asteroid Bennu to help the mission team select a sample collection site.

    The OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA), contributed by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), will create 3-D maps of asteroid Bennu to help the mission team select a sample collection site. NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will travel to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and bring at least a 60-gram (2.1-ounce) sample back to Earth for study.

    The OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA), contributed by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), will create 3-D maps of asteroid Bennu to help the mission team select a sample collection site. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will travel to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and bring at least a 60-gram (2.1-ounce) sample back to Earth for study. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Debbie McCallum

    “The OSIRIS-REx Project has worked very closely with our partner CSA and their contractor MDA to get this critical instrument delivered to the spacecraft contractor’s facility,” said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We are very pleased with the performance of the instrument and look forward to its contribution to our mission.”

    OLA is an advanced LIDAR (Light Detecting and Ranging) system that will scan the entire surface of the asteroid to create a highly accurate, 3-D shape model of Bennu. This will provide mission scientists with fundamental data on the asteroid’s shape, topography (distribution of boulders, rocks and other surface features), surface processes and evolution. An accurate shape model will also be an important tool for navigators as they maneuver the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft around the 500-meter-wide (0.3-mile-wide) asteroid. In exchange for providing the OLA instrument, CSA will receive a portion of the returned asteroid sample for study by Canadian scientists.

    “OLA will measure the shape and topography of Bennu to a much higher fidelity and with much greater efficiency than any planetary science mission has achieved,” said Michael Daly, OLA instrument lead at York University, Toronto. “This information is essential to understanding the evolution and current state of the asteroid. It also provides invaluable information in aid of retrieving a sample of Bennu for return to Earth.”

    After launch in September 2016, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will travel to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and bring at least a 60-gram (2.1-ounce) sample back to Earth for study. Scientists expect that Bennu may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of water and organic molecules that may have made their way to Earth. OSIRIS-REx’s investigation will also inform future efforts to develop a mission to mitigate an asteroid impact on Earth, should one be required.

    OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft at Bennu

    Artist’s conception of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft during its Touch-and-Go sampling maneuver at Bennu. Credit: NASA/Goddard

    “The data received from OLA will be key to determining a safe sample site on Bennu,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “This instrument is a valuable addition to the spacecraft, and I appreciate our Canadian partners’ hard work and contribution to the OSIRIS-REx mission.”

    The laser altimeter was built for CSA by MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) and its partner, Optech. OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to ship from Lockheed Martin’s facility to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida in May 2016, where it will undergo final preparations for launch.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta is the mission’s principal investigator at the University of Arizona. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is building 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.

  2. PI BLOG: OSIRIS-REx Completes Mechanical Environmental Testing

    December 15, 2015 -

    The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft continues to progress smoothly through the Assembly, Test, Launch and Operations (ATLO) process. This past month, the team successfully and safely completed sine vibration (sine vibe) testing prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. The sine vibe tests are designed to verify the system performs as expected after being exposed to flight-like low frequency vibration input.

  3. PI BLOG: OSIRIS-REx Progressing through Environmental Testing

    November 13, 2015 -

    Our spacecraft continues to make steady progress toward launch in September 2016. During the final stages of assembly, OSIRIS-REx completed final installation of the High Gain Antenna and completed solar array installation. After integrating these components, we completed a solar array illumination test on both arrays.

  4. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Begins Environmental Testing

    October 21, 2015 -
    The high gain antenna and solar arrays were installed on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft prior to it moving to environmental testing. Credit: Lockheed Martin Corporation

    Technicians at a Lockheed Martin Space clean room near Denver, Colorado, install the high gain antenna and solar arrays onto the the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft prior to the start of environmental testing. Credit: Lockheed Martin

    NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission is undergoing environmental testing at Lockheed Martin Space Systems facilities, near Denver, Colorado. OSIRIS-REx will be the first U.S. mission to return samples from an asteroid to Earth for further study.

    “OSIRIS-REx is entering environmental testing on schedule, on budget and with schedule reserves,” said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This allows us to have flexibility if any concerns arise during final launch preparations.”

    Over the next five months, the spacecraft will be subjected to a range of rigorous tests that simulate the vacuum, vibration and extreme temperatures it will experience throughout the life of its mission.

    “This is an exciting time for the program as we now have a completed spacecraft and the team gets to test drive it, in a sense, before we actually fly it to asteroid Bennu,” said Rich Kuhns, OSIRIS-REx program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. “The environmental test phase is an important time in the mission as it will reveal any issues with the spacecraft and instruments, while here on Earth, before we send it into deep space.”

    Specifically, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will undergo tests to simulate the harsh environment of space, including acoustical, separation and deployment shock, vibration, and electromagnetic interference. The simulation concludes with a test in which the spacecraft and its instruments are placed in a vacuum chamber and cycled through the extreme hot and cold temperatures it will face during its journey to Bennu.

    “This milestone marks the end of the design and assembly stage,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “We now move on to test the entire flight system over the range of environmental conditions that will be experienced on the journey to Bennu and back. This phase is critical to mission success, and I am confident that we have built the right system for the job.”

    OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to ship from Lockheed Martin’s facility to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center next May, where it will undergo final preparations for launch.

    After launch in September 2016, the spacecraft will travel to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and bring at least a 60-gram (2.1-ounce) sample back to Earth for study. OSIRIS-REx will return the largest sample from space since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission returned 170 grams (6 ounces) of lunar soil in 1976.

    Scientists expect that the Bennu may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of water and organic molecules that may have made their way to Earth. OSIRIS-REx’s investigation will inform future efforts to develop a mission to mitigate an impact, should one be required.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta is the mission’s principal investigator at the University of Arizona. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is building 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.

  5. PI BLOG: OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Assembly Nearly Complete

    October 9, 2015 -

    The OSIRIS-REx mission continues to make great progress. As I have mentioned before, we are in the Assembly, Test, and Launch Operations (ATLO) phase of the program. We have had many great accomplishments leading up to this point. At the heart of our mission is the Sample Acquisition and Return Assembly (SARA). This assembly contains the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), the Sample Return Capsule (SRC), and the TAGSAM launch container. The SARA panel is now installed on the spacecraft and has completed its functional tests […]

  6. PI BLOG: Populating the OSIRIS-REx Science Deck

    August 31, 2015 -

    The assembly of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft continues, with many elements integrated onto the spacecraft ahead of schedule. Last month both OTES and OVIRS were delivered to Lockheed Martin and installed on the science deck. OTES had the honor of being the first science instrument to be placed on the spacecraft […]

  7. University of Arizona Cameras Give Sight to NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission

    August 24, 2015 -

    From over two million kilometers away, a powerful camera on NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft will “see” the tiny asteroid Bennu for the first time, helping to guide the spacecraft to its destination. Once there, its versatile focus mechanism will transform the camera from a telescope to a microscope, enabling it to examine tiny rocks while only hundreds of meters from the asteroid’s surface.

    UA’s completed camera suite, OCAMS, sits on a test bench that mimics its arrangement on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. The three cameras that compose the instrument are the eyes of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. They will map the asteroid Bennu, help choose a sample site, and ensure that the sample is correctly stowed on the spacecraft. Credit: University of Arizona/Symeon Platts

    UA’s completed camera suite, OCAMS, sits on a test bench that mimics its arrangement on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. The three cameras that compose the instrument are the eyes of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. They will map the asteroid Bennu, help choose a sample site, and ensure that the sample is correctly stowed on the spacecraft. Credit: University of Arizona/Symeon Platts

    This camera, called PolyCam, is part of an innovative suite of three cameras designed and built by the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL). Together, these cameras will enable the OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return mission to map the asteroid Bennu, choose a sample site, and ensure that the sample is correctly stowed on the spacecraft. The University of Arizona delivered the OSIRIS-REx CAMera Suite (OCAMS) instrument to Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado, today for integration onto the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.

     

    “The OCAMS instrument’s three cameras, PolyCam, MapCam and SamCam, will be our mission’s eyes at Bennu,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona. “OCAMS will provide the imagery we need to complete our mission while the spacecraft is at the asteroid.”

     

    The largest of the three cameras, PolyCam, is small telescope that will acquire the first images of Bennu from two million kilometers distance and provide high resolution imaging of the sample site. MapCam will search for satellites and outgassing plumes around Bennu, map the asteroid in color, and provide images to construct topographic maps. SamCam will document the sample acquisition event and the collected sample.

     

    “The most important goal of these cameras is to maximize our ability to successfully return a sample,” said OCAMS instrument scientist Bashar Rizk. “Our mission requires a lot of activities during one trip – navigation, mapping, reconnaissance, sample site selection, and sampling. While we are there, we need the ability to continuously see what is happening around the asteroid in order to make real-time decisions.”

     

    The OSIRIS-REx mission is scheduled to launch in September 2016 to study Bennu, a near-Earth and potentially hazardous asteroid. After rendezvousing with Bennu in 2018, the spacecraft will survey the asteroid, obtain a sample, and return it to Earth.

    Mechanical engineer Mitch Beiser (left) and senior staff engineer William Verts prepare the OCAMS instrument for its final round of testing at UA’s OSIRIS-REx facility. The camera instrument will be delivered to Lockheed Martin in Denver for installation onto NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which is scheduled to launch into space in September 2016. Credit: University of Arizona/Symeon Platts

    Mechanical engineer Mitch Beiser (left) and senior staff engineer William Verts prepare the OCAMS instrument for its final round of testing at UA’s OSIRIS-REx facility. The camera instrument will be delivered to Lockheed Martin in Denver for installation onto NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which is scheduled to launch into space in September 2016. Credit: University of Arizona/Symeon Platts

    OSIRIS-REx is the first U.S. mission to sample an asteroid, and will return the largest sample from space since the Apollo lunar missions. Scientists expect that Bennu may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of water and organic molecules that may have seeded life on Earth. Bennu also has a relatively high probability of impacting the Earth late in the 22nd century. OSIRIS-REx’s investigation will inform future efforts to develop a mission to mitigate an impact, should one be required.

     

    “This is another major step in preparing for our mission,” said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “With the delivery of OCAMS to the spacecraft contractor, we will have our full complement of cameras and spectrometers,”

     

    While SamCam and MapCam were made exclusively by LPL, PolyCam’s optics and structure were made through a joint program between LPL and the University of Arizona’s College of Optical Sciences. PolyCam’s unique focus mechanism is also the basis of LPL’s first patent application.

     

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta is the mission’s principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is building 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.

     

  8. PI BLOG: Plot Twist: How I Became the OSIRIS-REx Videographer

    August 12, 2015 -

    Guest Blogger:  Symeon Platts.  My name is Symeon Platts. I am a dog owner first and a cinematographer second. I graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Media Arts this past May, and I am now the Videographer for the OSIRIS-REx mission […]

  9. PI BLOG: A Visit to the ATLO Floor

    July 29, 2015 -

    Last month I finally got up close and personal with the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. I am now making regular visits to the Lockheed Martin Space Systems facility in Littleton, Colorado, where OSIRIS-REx is under construction […]

  10. PI BLOG: OSIRIS-REx – Testing in Progress

    July 15, 2015 -

    The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is in the assembly and testing phase at Lockheed Martin’s facility outside of Denver, Colorado. The instruments have begun to arrive at the facility, with OTES and OVIRS being delivered in the past weeks […]

  11. OSIRIS-REx Reveals Details to Operate Asteroid Mission

    July 10, 2015 -

    The first U.S. mission to return a sample from an asteroid is readying itself to take on the complex operations necessary for its journey in space. NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security – Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission, led by the University of Arizona, passed a key milestone last month by completing a Mission Operations Review (MOR). The MOR demonstrated the team’s progress in developing the operational processes needed to return a sample from a primitive asteroid named Bennu. Spacecraft operations will be conducted at the Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company campus in Littleton, Colorado, with science operations for the mission being performed on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson.

     

    The MOR, administered by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, focused specifically on OSIRIS-REx’s operational readiness and its progress to launch. The panel of experts assessed the mission’s approach to data processing and analysis, commanding and planning of the spacecraft and instruments, navigation, and the verification and validation plans required before the spacecraft takes flight.

     

    “The MOR provided each of the OSIRIS-REx team members the opportunity to demonstrate how they will operate together after launch to accomplish the work of this mission,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona. “So many aspects of our mission have never been attempted before, and this review showcased the innovative approach to finding solutions that the entire OSIRIS-REx operations team brings to the mission.”

     

    After launch in September 2016, the spacecraft will travel to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and bring at least a 60-gram (2.1-ounce) sample back to Earth for study. The mission will help scientists investigate the composition of the very early solar system and the source of organic materials and water that made their way to Earth, and it will improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact our planet.

     

    At the mission’s Science Processing and Operations Center (SPOC), located at the University of Arizona, the OSIRIS-REx science and engineering teams are preparing to process the observations that will be transmitted back to Earth prior to retrieving a sample from the asteroid. SPOC personnel will author commands for the scientific instruments and analyze the data received from the spacecraft. These data will provide important answers to questions about Bennu’s composition, topography and temperature — all key to selecting a safe sampling site. At the MOR, OSIRIS-REx demonstrated that the mission has a viable strategy for smooth interactions between the spacecraft, SPOC and ground and flight systems.

     

    “This was the first of a number of operations-related reviews where the team will get to demonstrate its increasing maturity as we march toward launch next September, and they did an excellent job.” said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at Goddard.

     

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta is the mission’s principal investigator at the University of Arizona. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is building 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.

     

  12. Second Instrument Delivered for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission

    July 8, 2015 -

    An instrument that will explore the surface of a primitive asteroid in search of water and organic materials has arrived at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver for installation onto NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security–Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx).

    “The OVIRS team has met all of their technical requirements,” said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This is another step in completing the spacecraft and sending it on its way to rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu.”

    OVIRS Instrument

    The OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) will measure visible and near infrared light from the asteroid Bennu, which can be used to identify water and organic materials.
    Credit: NASA/GSFC/Bill Hrybyk

    The OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) measures visible and near infrared light from Bennu, which can be used to identify water and organic materials. Goddard built the instrument.

    OVIRS, a point spectrometer, will split the light from the asteroid Bennu into its component wavelengths, similar to a prism that splits sunlight into a rainbow, but over a much broader range of wavelengths. Different chemicals have unique spectral signatures by absorbing sunlight and can be identified in the reflected spectrum. The spectra provided by the instrument will help guide sample site selection.

    “Through the team’s efforts, OVIRS has become a remarkably capable instrument which we expect to return exciting science from the asteroid, Bennu,” said Dennis Reuter, OVIRS instrument lead from Goddard.

    After thorough testing with the spacecraft on the ground, the instrument will be powered on for check-out shortly after launch, with first science data collected during the Earth gravity assist in September 2017.

    OSIRIS-REx is the first U.S. mission to return samples from an asteroid to Earth for study. The mission is scheduled for launch in September 2016. It will reach its asteroid target in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023.

    The spacecraft will travel to a near-Earth asteroid, called Bennu and bring at least a 2.1-ounce sample back to Earth for study. The mission will help scientists investigate the composition of the very early solar system and the source of organic materials and water that made their way to Earth, and improve understanding of asteroids that could impact our planet.

    “The delivery of OVIRS to the spacecraft means the mission now has the capability to measure the minerals and chemicals at the sample site on Bennu,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “I greatly appreciate the hard work and innovation the OVIRS team demonstrated during the creation of this instrument.”

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta is the mission’s principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is building 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.

     

  13. OSIRIS-REx’s First Instrument Arrives for Integration Into Spacecraft

    June 26, 2015 -

    A journey that will stretch millions of miles and take years to complete begins with a short trip to a loading dock.

    The first of five instruments for a spacecraft that will collect a sample from an asteroid and bring it back to Earth has arrived at the Lockheed Martin Space Systems facility in Littleton, Colorado, for its installation onto NASA’s Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, spacecraft.

    Greg Mehall, lead project engineer, describes the final testing procedures of the OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES), on June 22. OTES is the first space instrument built entirely on ASU's Tempe campus. Credit: University of Arizona/Symeon Platts

    Greg Mehall, lead project engineer, describes the final testing procedures of the OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES), on June 22. OTES is the first space instrument built entirely on ASU’s Tempe campus. Credit: University of Arizona/Symeon Platts

    Led by the University of Arizona, OSIRIS-REx is the first U.S. mission to fly to, study and retrieve a pristine sample from an asteroid and return it to Earth for study. Scheduled to launch in September 2016, the spacecraft will reach its asteroid target in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023. The mission will allow scientists to investigate the composition of material from the very earliest epochs of solar system history, providing information about the source of organic materials and water on Earth.

    The OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer, or OTES, will conduct surveys to map mineral and chemical abundances and to take the asteroid Bennu’s temperature. OTES is the first such instrument built entirely on the Arizona State University campus.

    “It is a significant milestone to have OSIRIS-REx’s first instrument completed and delivered for integration onto the spacecraft,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the UA’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. “The OTES team has done an excellent job on the instrument and I deeply appreciate their scientific contribution to the mission. OTES plays an essential role in characterizing the asteroid in support of sample-site selection.”

    OTES is one of five instruments from national and international partners. These instruments will be key to mapping and analyzing Bennu’s surface and will be critical in identifying a site from which a sample can be safely retrieved and ultimately returned to Earth.

    “OTES, the size of a microwave oven, has spent the last several years being designed, built, tested and calibrated,” says Philip Christensen, OTES instrument scientist at ASU. “Now OTES is shipping out for the solar system.”

    The instrument will be powered on shortly after the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft begins its two-year trip to the asteroid Bennu. On arrival at Bennu, OTES will provide spectral data for global maps used to assess potential sample sites. It will take thermal infrared spectral data every two seconds and will be able to detect temperatures with an accuracy of 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit. It also will detect the presence of minerals on the asteroid’s surface.

    The OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite (OCAMS) consists of three cameras that will image the asteroid Bennu during approach and proximity operations. Scientists and engineers at the UA’s Lunar and Planetary Lab designed and built OCAMS to image Bennu over nine orders of magnitude in distance, from one million kilometers (more than 620,000 miles) down to two meters (6.5 feet). PolyCam, the largest camera of the OCAMS suite, is both a telescope — acquiring the asteroid from far away while it is still a point of light — and a microscope capable of scrutinizing the pebbles on Bennu’s surface. MapCam will map the entire surface of Bennu from a distance of three miles, and the Sampling Camera, or SamCam, is designed to document the sample acquisition. The OCAMS instrument suite is scheduled to be installed on the spacecraft in September.

    The OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter, or OLA, will scan Bennu to map the entire asteroid surface, producing local and global topographic maps. OLA is a contributed instrument from the Canadian Space Agency.

    The OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer, or OVIRS, measures visible and infrared light from Bennu, which can be used to identify water and organic materials. The instrument is provided by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

    A student experiment called the Regolith X-ray Imaging Spectrometer, or REXIS, will map elemental abundances on the asteroid. REXIS is a collaboration between the students and faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard College Observatory.

    “The next few months will be very busy as we begin integrating the instruments and prepare for the system-level environmental testing program to begin,” said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. The UA’s Lauretta is the mission’s principal investigator. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is building 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, D.C.

     

  14. OSIRIS-REx Team Prepares for Next Step in NASA’s Asteroid Sample Return Mission

    June 22, 2015 -

    With launch only 15 months away, the team of the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission, led by the University of Arizona, is preparing to deliver its instruments for integration with the spacecraft over the next several months. OSIRIS-REx, which stands for Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification and Security-Regolith Explorer, is the first U.S. mission to take a sample from an asteroid and bring it to Earth for study.

    OSIRIS-REx will travel to Bennu, a near-Earth asteroid, to bring back a small sample to Earth for study. The mission is scheduled for launch in September 2016. The spacecraft will reach its asteroid target in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023.

    “These instruments are essential to accomplishing the mission’s science goals and unlocking the secrets of Bennu,” said Dante Lauretta, professor in the UA’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx. “I am proud of the dedication to excellence that each of our instrument teams brings to this mission, and I look forward to all that we will discover at the asteroid.”

    The spacecraft will carry five instruments from national and international partners. These instruments will be key to mapping and analyzing Bennu’s surface and will be critical in identifying a site from which a sample can be safely retrieved and ultimately returned to Earth.

    The OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite, or OCAMS, consists of three cameras that will image Bennu during approach and proximity operations. Scientists and engineers at LPL designed and built OCAMS to image Bennu over nine orders of magnitude in distance, from 1 million kilometers (more than 620,000 miles) down to two meters (6.5 feet). PolyCam, the largest camera of the OCAMS suite, is both a telescope — acquiring the asteroid from far away while it is still a point of light — and a microscope capable of scrutinizing the pebbles on Bennu’s surface. MapCam will map the entire surface of Bennu from a distance of three miles, and the Sampling Camera, or SamCam, is designed to document the sample acquisition. The OCAMS instrument suite is scheduled to be installed on the spacecraft in September.

    The OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter, or OLA, will scan Bennu to map the entire asteroid surface, producing local and global topographic maps. OLA is a contributed instrument from the Canadian Space Agency.

    The OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer, or OTES, will conduct surveys to map mineral and chemical abundances and to take Bennu’s temperature. OTES is provided by Arizona State University.

    The OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer, or OVIRS, measures visible and infrared light from Bennu, which can be used to identify water and organic materials. The instrument is provided by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

    A student experiment called the Regolith X-ray Imaging Spectrometer, or REXIS, will map elemental abundances on the asteroid. REXIS is a collaboration between the students and faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard College Observatory.

    “This is an exciting time for the project,” said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.  “Years of effort are coming to culmination with the upcoming deliveries of the instruments to the spacecraft.”

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is building 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, D.C.

     

  15. PI BLOG: OSIRIS-REx – Seeking Answers to the Sweet Mystery of Life

    April 28, 2015 -

    Guest Blogger: Jason Dworkin.  The nature of the origin of life is a topic that has engaged people since ancient times. Where did we come from? What was the first life? How are we related? Are we alone? The study of biologic remains and environments preserved in rocks (fossils) and biochemical pathways and structures […]

  16. PI BLOG: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Mission Will Use Vacuum Chamber for Testing Spacecraft Instruments

    April 22, 2015 -

    Originally posted on LACO Technologies Tech Blog:
    NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission will send a spacecraft in September 2016 to the asteroid Bennu in order to extract a sample and bring it back to earth. Bennu is a carbon-rich asteroid that records the earliest history of our Solar System, and by studying a piece of it we could discover the origin of life. Bennu is…

  17. PI BLOG: Development of the OSIRIS-REx Sampling System: TAGSAM and the SRC

    April 20, 2015 -

    In addition to continued progress in the building the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and scientific instruments, the team at Lockheed Martin has been busy assembling and testing two key components of the system. The Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) is the device that satisfies all sample-acquisition requirements. TAGSAM consists of two major components: a sampler head and […]

  18. OSIRIS-REx Mission Passes Critical Milestone

    March 31, 2015 -

    NASA’s groundbreaking science mission to retrieve a sample from an ancient space rock has moved closer to fruition. The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission has passed a critical milestone in its path towards launch and is officially authorized to transition into its next phase.

    Technicians begin assembling the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft in a Lockheed Martin Space clean room facility near Denver, Colorado.
    Credit: Lockheed Martin

    Key Decision Point-D (KDP-D) occurs after the project has completed a series of independent reviews that cover the technical health, schedule and cost of the project. The milestone represents the official transition from the mission’s development stage to delivery of systems, testing and integration leading to launch. During this part of the mission’s life cycle, known as Phase D, the spacecraft bus, or the structure that will carry the science instruments, is completed, the instruments are integrated into the spacecraft and tested, and the spacecraft is shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for integration with the rocket.

    “This is an exciting time for the OSIRIS-REx team,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-Rex at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “After almost four years of intense design efforts, we are now proceeding with the start of flight system assembly. I am grateful for the hard work and team effort required to get us to this point.”

    OSIRIS-REx is the first U.S. mission to return samples from an asteroid to Earth. The spacecraft will travel to a near-Earth asteroid called Bennu and bring at least a 60-gram (2.1-ounce) sample back to Earth for study. OSIRIS-REx carries five instruments that will remotely evaluate the surface of Bennu. The mission will help scientists investigate the composition of the very early solar system and the source of organic materials and water that made their way to Earth, and improve understanding of asteroids that could impact our planet.

    OSIRIS-REx is scheduled for launch in late 2016. The spacecraft will reach Bennu in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023.

    “The spacecraft structure has been integrated with the propellant tank and propulsion system and is ready to begin system integration in the Lockheed Martin highbay,” said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The payload suite of cameras and sensors is well into its environmental test phase and will be delivered later this summer/fall.”

    The key decision meeting was held at NASA Headquarters in Washington on March 30 and chaired by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

    On March 27, assembly, launch and test operations officially began at Lockheed Martin in Denver. These operations represent a critical stage of the program  when the spacecraft begins to take form, culminating with its launch. Over the next several months, technicians will install the subsystems on the main spacecraft structure, comprising avionics, power, telecomm, thermal systems, and guidance, navigation and control.

    The next major milestone is the Mission Operations Review, scheduled for completion in June. The project will demonstrate that its navigation, planning, commanding, and science operations requirements are complete.

    The mission’s principal investigator is at the University of Arizona, Tucson. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will provide overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver will build 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.

    OSIRIS-REx complements NASA’s Asteroid Initiative, which aligns portions of the agency’s science, space technology and human exploration capabilities in a coordinated asteroid research effort. The initiative will conduct research and analysis to better characterize and mitigate the threat these space rocks pose to our home planet.

    Included in the initiative is NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), a robotic spacecraft mission that will capture a boulder from the surface of a near-Earth asteroid and move it into a stable orbit around the moon for exploration by astronauts, all in support of advancing the nation’s journey to Mars. The agency also is engaging new industrial capabilities, partnerships, open innovation and participatory exploration through the NASA Asteroid Initiative.

    NASA also has made tremendous progress in the cataloging and characterization of near Earth objects over the past five years. The president’s NASA budget included, and Congress authorized, $20.4 million for an expanded NASA Near-Earth Object (NEO) Observations Program, increasing the resources for this critical program from the $4 million per year it had received since the 1990s. The program was again expanded in fiscal year 2014, with a budget of $40.5 million. NASA is asking Congress for $50 million for this important work in the 2016 budget.

    NASA has identified more than 12,000 NEOs to date, including 96 percent of near-Earth asteroids larger than 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) in size. NASA has not detected any objects of this size that pose an impact hazard to Earth in the next 100 years. Smaller asteroids do pass near Earth, however, and some could pose an impact threat. In 2011, 893 near-Earth asteroids were found. In 2014, that number was increased to 1,472.

    In addition to NASA’s ongoing work detecting and cataloging asteroids, the agency has engaged the public in the hunt for these space rocks through the agency’s Asteroid Grand Challenge activities, including prize competitions. During the recent South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, the agency announced the release of a software application based on an algorithm created by a NASA challenge that has the potential to increase the number of new asteroid discoveries by amateur astronomers.

     

  19. PI BLOG: OSIRIS-REx Begins ATLO (Assembly, Test, and Launch Operations)!

    March 31, 2015 -

    Yesterday, the OSIRIS-REx mission passed another major milestone – successfully completing Key Decision Point “D” (KDP-D). This decision point is one of five key milestones that we pass through leading up to launch. KDP-D occurred after we had completed a series of independent reviews that cover the technical readiness, schedule, and cost of the project. […]

  20. PI BLOG: We Want You – To Become an OSIRIS-REx Ambassador!

    March 23, 2015 -

    Guest Blogger: Dolores Hill. Who in the world? Who in the world would spend their free time talking to the public about the OSIRIS-REx mission and asteroids? OSIRIS-REx Ambassador volunteers and OSIRIS-REx team members! We are privileged to have a great team of volunteers who staff tables at public events such as the University of […]

  21. PI BLOG: How Do We Know When We Have Collected a Sample of Bennu?

    March 13, 2015 -

    Guest Blogger: Kevin Walsh.  A huge amount of effort goes into deciding where to try to collect a sample on Bennu. There are roughly nine months to survey, map and model the asteroid to help make this decision, and I will describe some of the important factors of that decision below. Just as important – […]

  22. OSIRIS-REx Mission Successfully Completes System Integration Review

    February 27, 2015 -

    This week marked the completion of an important step on the path to spacecraft assembly, test, and launch operations for the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security – Regolith Explorer or OSIRIS-REx mission.

    The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft core structure is successfully lowered and mated to the hydrazine propellant tank and boat tail assembly at Lockheed Martin, Denver, Colo. Credits: Lockheed Martin

    The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft core structure is successfully lowered and mated to the hydrazine propellant tank and boat tail assembly at Lockheed Martin, Denver, Colo.
    Credits: Lockheed Martin

    The team met at the Lockheed Martin facility in Littleton, Colorado during the week of February 23, 2015 to review the plan for integrating all of the systems on the spacecraft, such as the scientific instrumentation, electrical and communication systems, and navigation systems. Successful completion of this System Integration Review means that the project can proceed with assembling and testing the spacecraft in preparations for launch in September 2016. Assembly and testing operations for the spacecraft are on track to begin next month at the Lockheed Martin facilities in Littleton.

    The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will travel to a near-Earth asteroid, called Bennu, and bring at least a 2.1-ounce sample back to Earth for study. The mission will help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will provide overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta is the mission’s principal investigator at the University of Arizona. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver will build 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.

     

  23. PI BLOG: Rosetta and OSIRIS-REx – Friends on the Frontier

    February 24, 2015 -

    Guest Blogger: Ed Beshore.  Dante has written extensively here about the science we hope to accomplish both at Bennu and when we return a sample to the Earth. He and other guest columnists like me have also discussed the design and construction of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and its instruments (OCAMS, OLA, OVIRS, OTES, and REXIS). […]

  24. PI BLOG: OVIRS Development – Rising From the Ashes

    February 15, 2015 -

    Guest Bloggers: Jason Hair, Dennis Reuter, and Amy Simon. Building a mission or an instrument is not for the faint of heart. While engineering teams develop plans to avoid major mishaps, sometimes even the best laid plans aren’t enough. A case in point is a series of unfortunate events that happened to the OVIRS instrument […]

  25. PI Blog: The OSIRIS-REx Heavy Launch Opportunity

    February 9, 2015 -

    As recent press articles have discussed, the OSIRIS-REx team has been busy performing a special study related to our launch mass and propellant load. The objective of this study is to look at ways to increase the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft delta-V capability as much as possible without impacting the current spacecraft or launch vehicle designs. Delta-V […]

  26. PI BLOG: Planet Formation and the Origin of Life

    January 29, 2015 -

    On Monday, February 2, 2015, I will present the UA College of Science Lecture on “Planet Formation and the Origin of Life”. This is a research theme that I have pursued for most of my career. It is generally accepted that planets or their satellites are required for life to originate and evolve. Thus, in […]

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