1. NASA Selects Participating Scientists to Join OSIRIS-REx Mission

    December 8, 2017 -

    NASA selected 13 Participating Scientists from a range of disciplines to join the OSIRIS-REx mission. Credit: University of Arizona

    NASA has selected 13 participating scientists for the agency’s first asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Regolith Explorer).

    The goal of the OSIRIS-REx Participating Scientist Program is to enhance the scientific return during the asteroid-operational phase of the mission by expanding participation in the mission through new investigations that broaden and/or complement existing investigations. The participating scientists will become science team members during their three-year tenure with the mission.

    OSIRIS-REx launched Sept. 8, 2016, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It’s currently on a seven-year journey to rendezvous with, study, and return a sample of Bennu to Earth. This sample of a primitive asteroid will help scientists understand the formation of our solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago.

    The spacecraft will arrive at Bennu in December 2018, and begin surveying the surface.

    The newly selected participating scientists are:

    • Joshua Bandfield – Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado
    • Kerri Donaldson-Hanna – University of Oxford, England
    • Catherine Elder – Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
    • Timothy Glotch – Stony Brook University (SUNY), New York
    • Romy Hanna – University of Texas, Austin
    • Christine Hartzell – University of Maryland, College Park
    • Jamie Molaro – Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona
    • Greg Neumann – NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
    • Maurizio Pajola – INAF/Astronomical Observatory of Padua, Italy
    • Stephen Schwartz – University of Arizona, Tucson
    • Matthew Siegler – Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona
    • David Trang – University of Hawaii, Manoa
    • Pasquale Tricarico – Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the agency’s New Frontiers Program for the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

  2. OSIRIS-REx Images Earth and the Moon in Color

    October 10, 2017 -

     

    OSIRIS-REx MapCam Color Image Earth and Moon

    A color portrait of the Earth and the Moon taken Oct. 2, 2017 at a distance of approximately 3,180,000 miles (5,120,000 km) from Earth, using OSIRIS-REx’s MapCam imager. To produce the image, three of MapCam’s color filters (blue, green and red) were co-registered and stacked. Color correction and “stretching” (brightening) were performed on the Earth and Moon. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

     

    This color composite image of Earth and the Moon was taken Oct. 2, 2017 (ten days after OSIRIS-REx performed its Earth Gravity Assist maneuver), using MapCam, the mid-range scientific camera onboard the spacecraft. The distance to Earth was approximately 3,180,000 miles (5,120,000 km)—or about 13 times the distance between the Earth and Moon.

    MapCam, part of the OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite (OCAMS) operated by the University of Arizona, has four color filters. To produce this image, three of them (b, v and w) were treated as a blue-green-red triplet, co-registered and stacked. The Earth and Moon were each color-corrected, and the Moon was “stretched” (brightened) to make it more easily visible.

     

    Graphic - MapCam Imaging Earth and Moon After EGA

    Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

    To capture the image, OSIRIS-REx pointed its instrument deck back toward Earth from a distance of approximately 3,180,000 miles (5,120,000 km). At that range, the Moon—which was 3,370,000 miles (5,420,000 km) away from the spacecraft—appeared just inside MapCam’s field of view, allowing both planetary bodies to be captured in the same frame.

  3. OSIRIS-REx Images the Moon

    October 3, 2017 -

    On Sept. 25, 2017, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft obtained the data used to produce this image of the Moon with its high-resolution PolyCam imager. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

    Three days after its Earth flyby, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft examined the Moon using its high-resolution PolyCam imager. This image was produced using data taken Sept. 25, when the spacecraft was approximately 746,000 miles (1.2 million km) from the Moon, moving away at approximately 14,000 miles per hour (22,530 km per hour).

    Familiar lunar features such as the Mare Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility) and Mare Crisium (Sea of Crises) are visible on the left. Also visible are features of the far side of the Moon, such as the mare plain surrounding Tsiolkovsky Crater (bottom right) and the bright ray systems surrounding the Giordano Bruno and Necho Craters (center). To produce this image, the OSIRIS-REx team registered and combined nine one-megapixel PolyCam images taken in quick succession using a technique called super-resolution imaging.

    PolyCam is part of the OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite (OCAMS) operated by the University of Arizona.

  4. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Snaps Pictures of Earth and the Moon

    September 28, 2017 -

    The first image taken by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft after completion of its Earth Gravity Assist maneuver on Sept. 22, 2017. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin

    The first image taken by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft after completion of its Earth Gravity Assist maneuver on Sept. 22, 2017, cropped to show in greater detail the spacecraft’s view of Earth from 69,000 miles (110,000 kilometers). The image has been rotated so that Earth’s north pole is located at the top, and the Baja Peninsula is visible above and to the right of center. Cloud cover and the Pacific Ocean dominate most of the image, but Hurricane Maria and the remnants of Hurricane Jose can be seen in the far upper-right portion of the image, off the east coast of the United States. This image was captured by NavCam 1, a black-and-white imager that is one of three cameras comprising TAGCAMS (the Touch-and-Go Camera System), which is part of OSIRIS-REx’s guidance, navigation, and control system. NavCam images will track starfields and landmarks on Bennu to determine the spacecraft position during mission operations. TAGCAMS was designed, built and tested by Malin Space Science Systems; Lockheed Martin integrated TAGCAMS to the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and operates TAGCAMS. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin

     

    This black-and-white image of the Earth-Moon system was captured on Sept. 25, 2017 by NavCam 1. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin

    This black-and-white image of the Earth-Moon system was captured on Sept. 25, 2017 by NavCam 1, one of three cameras that comprise TAGCAMS (the Touch-and-Go Camera System) on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. At the time this image was taken, the spacecraft was retreating from Earth after performing an Earth Gravity Assist maneuver on Sept. 22. Earth and the Moon are shown 249,000 miles (401,200 kilometers) apart, and the spacecraft is 804,000 miles (1,297,000 kilometers) from Earth and 735,000 miles (1,185,000 kilometers) from the Moon.  TAGCAMS was designed, built and tested by Malin Space Science Systems; Lockheed Martin integrated TAGCAMS to the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and operates TAGCAMS. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin

  5. OSIRIS-REx Views the Earth During Flyby

    September 26, 2017 -

    A color composite image of Earth taken on Sept. 22 by the MapCam camera on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

    A color composite image of Earth taken on Sept. 22 by the MapCam camera on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. This image was taken just hours after the spacecraft completed its Earth Gravity Assist at a range of approximately 106,000 miles (170,000 kilometers). MapCam is part of the OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite (OCAMS) operated by the University of Arizona. Visible in this image are the Pacific Ocean and several familiar landmasses, including Australia in the lower left, and Baja California and the southwestern United States in the upper right. The dark vertical streaks at the top of the image are caused by short exposure times (less than three milliseconds). Short exposure times are required for imaging an object as bright as Earth, but are not anticipated for an object as dark as the asteroid Bennu, which the camera was designed to image.

     

    OVIRS captured this visible and infrared spectral curve, which shows the amount of sunlight reflected from the Earth, after the spacecraft’s Earth Gravity Assist on Sept. 22, 2017. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

    OVIRS, the OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer, captured this visible and infrared spectral curve, which shows the amount of sunlight reflected from the Earth, hours after the spacecraft’s closest approach during Earth Gravity Assist on Sept. 22 2017. The features in the curve are caused by solar absorption due to different substances (water vapor, carbon dioxide, and oxygen). The smooth red curve is the spectrum of the sun and shows what would be reflected if there these substances were not present in the atmosphere. OVIRS was built and is operated by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.  The inset shows an image of Earth captured by OCAMS on the same date showing the approximate location of the “spot” (400 kilometers in diameter) on the Earth that was scanned by the OVIRS instrument to produce this spectral curve.

     

     

     

     

     

    OTES captured these infrared spectral curves during Earth Gravity Assist on Sept. 22 2017, hours after the spacecraft’s closest approach. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Arizona State University

    OTES, the OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer, captured these infrared spectral curves during Earth Gravity Assist on Sept. 22 2017, hours after the spacecraft’s closest approach. The peaks and valleys in the curves are known as absorption features and show differences in absorption of the sun’s energy due to different substances (water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane and ozone) in Earth’s atmosphere. The curves also provide temperature information for different heights in the atmosphere. The smooth red and blue curves show the temperatures of the ocean surface and the stratosphere without the effects of the absorption features. OTES was built and is operated by Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz.  The inset shows an image of Earth captured by OCAMS on the same date shows the approximate locations and sizes of the “spots” (each 800 kilometers in diameter) on the Earth that were scanned by the OTES instrument to produce these spectral curves.

  6. NASA’S OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Slingshots Past Earth

    September 22, 2017 -

    NASA’s asteroid sample return spacecraft successfully used Earth’s gravity on Friday to slingshot itself on a path toward the asteroid Bennu, for a rendezvous next August.

    At 12:52 p.m. EDT on Sept. 22, the OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Regolith Explorer) spacecraft came within 10,711 miles (17,237 km) of Antarctica, just south of Cape Horn, Chile, before following a route north over the Pacific Ocean.

    OSIRIS-REx launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Sept. 8, 2016, on an Atlas V 411 rocket. Although the rocket provided the spacecraft with all the momentum required to propel it forward to Bennu, OSIRIS-REx needed an extra boost from the Earth’s gravity to change its orbital plane. Bennu’s orbit around the Sun is tilted six degrees from Earth’s orbit, and this maneuver changed the spacecraft’s direction to put it on the path toward Bennu.

    As a result of the flyby, the velocity change to the spacecraft was 8,451 miles per hour (3.778 kilometers per second).

    “The encounter with Earth is fundamental to our rendezvous with Bennu,” said Rich Burns, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The total velocity change from Earth’s gravity far exceeds the total fuel load of the OSIRIS-REx propulsion system, so we are really leveraging our Earth flyby to make a massive change to the OSIRIS-REx trajectory, specifically changing the tilt of the orbit to match Bennu.”

    The mission team also is using OSIRIS-REx’s Earth flyby as an opportunity to test and calibrate the spacecraft’s instrument suite. Approximately four hours after the point of closest approach, and on three subsequent days over the next two weeks, the spacecraft’s instruments will be turned on to scan Earth and the Moon. These data will be used to calibrate the spacecraft’s science instruments in preparation for OSIRIS-REx’s arrival at Bennu in late 2018.

    “The opportunity to collect science data over the next two weeks provides the OSIRIS-REx mission team with an excellent opportunity to practice for operations at Bennu,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “During the Earth flyby, the science and operations teams are co-located, performing daily activities together as they will during the asteroid encounter.”

    The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is currently on a seven-year journey to rendezvous with, study, and return a sample of Bennu to Earth. This sample of a primitive asteroid will help scientists understand the formation of our solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the agency’s New Frontiers Program for the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

  7. Large Binocular Telescope Snags First Glimpse of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Since Launch

    September 8, 2017 -

    This set of magnified, cropped images shows NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft (highlighted in red) as it approaches Earth for its Sept. 22 Earth Gravity Assist. To improve visibility, the images have been inverted so that black and white are reversed. The images were taken Sept. 2, by the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory located on Mount Graham in Arizona. This is the first Earth-based view of the spacecraft since its launch on Sept. 8, 2016.

    On Sept. 2, 2017, the Large Binocular Telescope on Mt. Graham, Ariz., imaged the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft as the spacecraft approached Earth. This is the first Earth-based view of the spacecraft since its launch on Sept. 8, 2016. Credit: Large Binocular Telescope Observatory

    OSIRIS-REx, which was approximately 7 million miles (12 million kilometers) away when the images were taken, appears at approximately 25th magnitude.

    The Large Binocular Telescope is a pair of 8.4-meter mirrors mounted side by side on the same mount, that can work together to provide resolution equivalent to a 22.7-meter telescope. The telescope typically conducts imaging of more distant objects but took this opportunity to look for OSIRIS-REx with a pair of wide-field cameras (one per mirror) as the spacecraft approaches Earth for its gravity assist. This encounter will change the spacecraft’s trajectory and set it on course to rendezvous with asteroid Bennu, where it will collect a sample of surface material and return it to Earth for study in 2023. The Large Binocular Telescope Observatory is headquartered on the Tucson campus of the University of Arizona.

    The OSIRIS-REx mission team is collecting other images of the spacecraft taken by observatories and other ground-based telescopes around the world during this period – approximately Sept. 10-23, depending on location and local conditions. Individuals and groups may submit images of the spacecraft via the mission’s website, where instructions to locate the spacecraft in the sky are also available.

    For more information on the OSIRIS-REx mission, visit:

    www.nasa.gov/osirisrex  and www.asteroidmission.org

    For more information on the Large Binocular Telescope, visit:

    www.lbto.org

  8. Spot the Spacecraft

    September 6, 2017 -

    On Sept. 22, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will make a close approach to Earth, using the planet’s gravity to slingshot itself toward the asteroid Bennu. Over the course of several days, observatories and amateur astronomers with specialized equipment will be able to see OSIRIS-REx as the spacecraft approaches and retreats from its closest position over Earth, approximately 11,000 miles (17,000 km) above the planet’s surface.

    The mission will collect images of OSIRIS-REx taken by observatories and other ground-based telescopes around the world during this period – approximately Sept. 10-23, depending on location and local conditions. Observers from the OSIRIS-REx Target Asteroids! citizen science program, who regularly volunteer their time to help scientists study near-Earth asteroids, will be among those who train their telescopes on the spacecraft’s path.

    “The opportunity to capture images of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft as it approaches Earth provides a unique challenge for observers to hone their skills during this historic flyby,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “As the spacecraft approaches Earth for its own imaging campaign, ground-based observers will also be looking up and taking photos from the opposite perspective.”

    Individuals and groups may submit images of the spacecraft via the mission’s website, where instructions to locate the spacecraft in the sky are also available.

    “The team is eager and ready to execute the Earth Gravity Assist,” said Rich Burns, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greeenbelt, Maryland. “Not only will it be a significant change in trajectory putting OSIRIS-REx on track for rendezvous with Bennu, it also represents a unique opportunity for the OSIRIS-REx instruments to observe our home planet. It is fantastic that ground based observers are also taking the opportunity to image OSIRIS-REx.”

    The images collected during the Earth gravity assist represent the last opportunity for Earth-based observers to see the spacecraft — until it returns to Earth in 2023 carrying a sample from asteroid Bennu.

    The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the home institution of several OSIRIS-REx science team members, will also work with the Japan Public Observatory Society and the Planetary Society of Japan to collect imagery from vantage points in Japan.

    Shortly before OSIRIS-REx reaches its closest distance from Earth, the spacecraft will fly over the eastern half of Australia, giving observers there some of the best opportunities to see and photograph the spacecraft. The Desert Fireball Network — an organization based at Curtin University, Perth, that studies meteorites, fireballs and their pre-Earth orbits—will deploy observers to locations around Australia to track OSIRIS-REx across the sky.

    Members of the public without telescopes can still celebrate the Earth Gravity Assist by joining the “Wave to OSIRIS-REx” social media campaign. Individuals and groups from anywhere in the world are encouraged to take photos of themselves waving to OSIRIS-REx, share them using the hashtag #HelloOSIRISREx and tag the mission account in their posts on Twitter (@OSIRISREx) or Instagram (@OSIRIS_REx).

    Participants may begin taking and sharing photos at any time — or wait until the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft makes its closest approach to Earth at 12:52 p.m. EDT on Friday, Sept. 22.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s observation planning and processing. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the agency’s New Frontiers Program for its Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

  9. NASA’s Asteroid-Bound Spacecraft to Slingshot Past Earth

    August 31, 2017 -

    NASA’s asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Regolith Explorer), will pass about 11,000 miles (17,000 kilometers) above Earth just before 12:52 p.m. EDT on Friday, Sept. 22. Using Earth as a slingshot, the spacecraft will receive an assist to complete its journey to the asteroid Bennu.

    This artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passing by Earth.
    Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona

    OSIRIS-REx is undertaking a challenging mission to visit the near-Earth asteroid, survey the surface, collect samples and deliver them safely back to Earth. This is the first NASA mission to attempt such an undertaking. The spacecraft is halfway through its two-year outbound journey, and now OSIRIS-REx needs an extra boost to successfully rendezvous with Bennu.

    Bennu’s orbit around the Sun is tilted six degrees in comparison to Earth’s. The gravity assist will change OSIRIS-REx’s trajectory to put the spacecraft on a course to match the asteroid’s path and speed.

    “The Earth Gravity Assist is a clever way to move the spacecraft onto Bennu’s orbital plane using Earth’s own gravity instead of expending fuel,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

    The team has already made multiple adjustments to the spacecraft’s path since launch on Sept. 8, 2016. The largest was a deep space maneuver on Dec. 28, 2016, that changed the speed and path of the spacecraft to target Earth for the flyby. There have also been three trajectory correction maneuvers – one on Oct. 7, 2016, one on Jan. 18, 2017, and another on Aug. 23, 2017 (30 days before the gravity assist) – that further refined the spacecraft’s trajectory in preparation for the flyby.

    The navigation team comprises employees from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and KinetX Aerospace. KinetX Aerospace navigation team members plan and carry out all OSIRIS-REx maneuvers with the Lockheed Martin spacecraft operations team at the Lockheed Martin Waterton Campus in Littleton, Colorado. To properly target the Earth Gravity Assist, the navigation team calculates any required amount of change in the spacecraft’s course and speed. This information is then translated by the operations team into commands that are uploaded to the spacecraft and executed by firing the spacecraft’s rocket engines.

    After traveling almost 600 million miles, OSIRIS-REx will approach Earth at a speed of about 19,000 mph. The spacecraft will fly over Australia before reaching its closest point to Earth over Antarctica, just south of Cape Horn, Chile.

    “For about an hour, NASA will be out of contact with the spacecraft as it passes over Antarctica,” said Mike Moreau, the flight dynamics system lead at Goddard. “OSIRIS-REx uses the Deep Space Network to communicate with Earth, and the spacecraft will be too low relative to the southern horizon to be in view with either the Deep Space tracking station at Canberra, Australia, or Goldstone, California.”

    NASA will regain communication with OSIRIS-REx at 1:40 p.m. EDT, roughly 50 minutes after closest approach.

    At 4:52 p.m. EDT, four hours after closest approach, OSIRIS-REx will begin science observations of Earth and the Moon to calibrate its instruments.

    During the gravity assist, OSIRIS-REx will pass through a region of space that is inhabited by Earth-orbiting satellites, and NASA has taken precautions to ensure the safety of the spacecraft as it flies through this area. The mission’s flight dynamics team designed a small maneuver that, if necessary, could be executed a day before closest approach to change the spacecraft’s trajectory slightly to avoid a potential collision between OSIRIS-REx and a satellite.

    “A few weeks after the flyby we will assess the outgoing trajectory on its way to Bennu,” said Dan Wibben, the maneuver design and trajectory analysis lead from KinetX Aerospace. “There is a maneuver planned in case we need to adjust the orbit just a little bit to push the spacecraft back on track.”

    In late June of 2018, the team will perform another deep space maneuver to further target the rendezvous with Bennu. Then beginning in October 2018, a series of asteroid approach maneuvers will be executed to slow the spacecraft with respect to the asteroid.

    Once OSIRIS-REx rendezvous with Bennu in late 2018, the spacecraft will begin surveying the surface.

    “The asteroid’s small size and low gravity makes OSIRIS-REx the most challenging mission that I have worked on,” said Peter Antreasian, the navigation team chief from KinetX Aerospace. “At roughly 500 meters in diameter, Bennu will be the smallest object that NASA has orbited.”

    While the engineering team is busy carrying out the Earth Gravity Assist, the mission invites members of the public to mark the occasion by participating in the Wave to OSIRIS-REx social media campaign. Individuals and groups from anywhere in the world are encouraged to take photos of themselves waving to OSIRIS-REx, share them using the hashtag #HelloOSIRISREx and tag the mission account in their posts on Twitter (@OSIRISREx) or Instagram (@OSIRIS_REx).

    Participants may begin taking and sharing photos at any time—or wait until the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft makes its closest approach to Earth at 12:52p.m. EDT on Friday, Sept. 22.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the agency’s New Frontiers Program for its Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

  10. NASA’s Asteroid Sample Return Mission Successfully Adjusts Course

    August 25, 2017 -

    NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft fired its thrusters to position itself on the correct course for its upcoming Earth flyby. The spacecraft, which is on a two-year outbound journey to asteroid Bennu, successfully performed a precision course adjustment on Wednesday to prepare for the gravity slingshot on Sept. 22.

    This trajectory correction maneuver was the first to use the spacecraft’s Attitude Control System, or ACS, thrusters in a turn-burn-turn sequence. In this type of sequence, OSIRIS-REx’s momentum wheels turn the spacecraft to point the ACS thrusters toward the desired direction for the burn, and the thrusters fire. After the burn, the momentum wheels turn the spacecraft back to its previous orientation. The total thrust is monitored by an on-board accelerometer that will stop the maneuver once the desired thrust is achieved.

    High-precision changes in velocity, or speed and direction, will be critical when the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft operates near Bennu. Because Bennu is so small, it has only a weak gravity field. Therefore, it will only require tiny changes in velocity to do many of the maneuvers that are planned to explore and map the asteroid.

    The Aug. 23 maneuver began at 1 p.m. EDT and lasted for approximately one minute and 17 seconds. Preliminary tracking data indicate that the maneuver was successful, changing the velocity of the spacecraft by 1.07 miles per hour (47.9 centimeters per second) and using approximately 16 ounces (0.46 kilogram) of fuel.

    OSIRIS-REx will fly by Earth on Sept. 22 to use our planet’s gravity to propel the spacecraft onto Bennu’s orbital plane. As of Friday, Aug. 25, the spacecraft is about 10.3 million miles (16.6 million kilometers) from Earth.

    The mission team has another minor Earth-targeting maneuver tentatively planned for Sept. 12. Over the next few weeks, the navigation team will process daily spacecraft tracking data from Wednesday’s maneuver to determine whether the additional maneuver is necessary before the Earth gravity assist.

  11. OSIRIS-REx Experts Featured in Asteroid Day Celebration

    June 13, 2017 -

    Join the OSIRIS-REx mission and the University of Arizona for a special Asteroid Day presentation on Tuesday, June 27, featuring six experts exploring the most up-to-date asteroid science. Moderated by television host Geoff Notkin from the show “Meteorite Men,” the event will bring together researchers from the University of Arizona who work at the forefront of asteroid science. Media are invited to attend, and opportunities for interviews with the experts will be provided. The presentation is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and admittance is first-come, first-served.

    What: Special presentation and programming in recognition of Asteroid Day

    When: June 27, 6 p.m. and weekend of June 30 – July 2, 2017

    Where: Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium, 1601 E University Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85719 and online

    Expert Presenters:

    • Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission and professor at the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory
    • Eric Christensen, director of the Catalina Sky Survey for Near-Earth Objects and associate staff scientist at the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory
    • Heather Enos, deputy principal investigator for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission
    • Vishnu Reddy, assistant professor at the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory
    • Geoff Notkin, Board of Governors, National Space Society
    • Dani DellaGiustina, lead image processing scientist for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission

    Can’t join us in person? The presentations will be recorded for broadcast on June 29 and 30 as part of a special 24-hour Asteroid Day Live broadcast organized by the nation of Luxembourg.

    On Asteroid Day and through the weekend that follows (June 30 – July 2), Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium will celebrate Asteroid Day/Weekend with special activities related to asteroids and the OSIRIS-REx mission, asteroid planetarium shows and asteroid exhibits for the public.

     

    To raise awareness of asteroids and the important roles they have played in the evolution of the solar system and throughout Earth’s history, June 30 is designated annually as Asteroid Day. The date commemorates Earth’s largest asteroid impact in recorded history, the Siberia Tunguska event, which leveled trees across 770 square miles, more than three times the area of Tucson, in 1908.

    Currently, the UA leads the OSIRIS-REx mission, an $800 million NASA mission that will bring back a sample from the asteroid Bennu. The UA also has the most internationally active program to identify and track Near-Earth Objects (NEOs). More than half of all known near-Earth asteroids and comets have been discovered by the UA.

  12. OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Search Tests Instruments, Science Team

    March 24, 2017 -

    During an almost two-week search, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission team activated the spacecraft’s MapCam imager and scanned part of the surrounding space for elusive Earth-Trojan asteroids—objects that scientists believe may exist in one of the stable regions that co-orbits the sun with the Earth. Although no Earth-Trojans were discovered, the spacecraft’s camera operated flawlessly and demonstrated that it could image objects two magnitudes dimmer than originally expected.

    The path of the Main Belt asteroid 12 Victoria, as imaged by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on Feb. 11 during the mission’s Earth-Trojan Asteroid Search. This gif is made of a series of five images taken by the spacecraft’s MapCam camera that were then cropped and centered on Victoria. The images were taken about 51 minutes apart and each were exposed for ten seconds. Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

    The spacecraft, currently on its outbound journey to the asteroid Bennu, flew through the center of Earth’s fourth Lagrangian area—a stable region 60 degrees in front of the Earth in its orbit where scientists believe asteroids may be trapped, such as asteroid 2010 TK7 discovered by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite in 2010. Though no new asteroids were discovered in the region that was scanned, the spacecraft’s cameras MapCam and PolyCam successfully acquired and imaged Jupiter and several of its moons, as well as Main Belt asteroids.

    “The Earth-Trojan Asteroid Search was a significant success for the OSIRIS-REx mission,” said OSIRIS-REx principal investigator Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson. “In this first practical exercise of the mission’s science operations, the mission team learned so much about this spacecraft’s capabilities and flight operations that we are now ahead of the game for when we get to Bennu.”

    The Earth Trojan survey was designed primarily as an exercise for the mission team to rehearse the hazard search the spacecraft will perform as it approaches its target asteroid Bennu. This search will allow the mission team to avoid any natural satellites that may exist around the asteroid as the spacecraft prepares to collect a sample to return to Earth in 2023 for scientific study.

    The spacecraft’s MapCam imager, in particular, performed much better than expected during the exercise. Based on the camera’s design specifications, the team anticipated detecting four Main Belt asteroids. In practice, however, the camera was able to detect moving asteroids two magnitudes fainter than expected and imaged a total of 17 Main Belt asteroids. This indicates that the mission will be able to detect possible hazards around Bennu earlier and from a much greater distance that originally planned, further reducing mission risk.

    Scientists are still analyzing the implications of the search’s results for the potential population of Earth-Trojan asteroids and will publish conclusions after a thorough study of mission data.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s observation planning and processing. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the agency’s New Frontiers Program for its Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

  13. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Takes Closer Image Of Jupiter

    February 15, 2017 -

    During Earth-Trojan asteroid search operations, the PolyCam imager aboard NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured this image of Jupiter (center) and three of its moons, Callisto (left), Io, and Ganymede.

    On Feb. 12, 2017, OSIRIS-REx’s PolyCam imager captured this image of Jupiter (center) and three of its moons, Callisto (left), Io, and Ganymede. The image was taken when the spacecraft was 76 million miles (122 million kilometers) from Earth and 418 million miles (673 million kilometers) from Jupiter. (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

    The image, which shows the bands of Jupiter, was taken at 3:34 a.m. EST, on Feb. 12, when the spacecraft was 76 million miles (122 million kilometers) from Earth and 418 million miles (673 million kilometers) from Jupiter. PolyCam is OSIRIS-REx’s longest range camera, capable of capturing images of the asteroid Bennu from a distance of two million kilometers.

    This image was produced by taking two copies of the same image, adjusting the brightness of Jupiter separately from the significantly dimmer moons, and compositing them back together so that all four objects are visible in the same frame.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s observation planning and processing. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the agency’s New Frontiers Program for its Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

  14. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Takes Its First Image of Jupiter

    February 14, 2017 -

    This magnified, cropped image showing Jupiter and three of its moons was taken by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s MapCam instrument during optical navigation testing for the mission’s Earth-Trojan Asteroid Search.

    A magnified, cropped image showing Jupiter and three of its moons taken by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s MapCam instrument during optical navigation testing for the mission’s Earth-Trojan Asteroid Search. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

    The image shows Jupiter in the center, the moon Callisto to the left and the moons Io and Europa to the right. Ganymede, the fourth Galilean satellite, is also present in the image, but is not visible as it is crossing in front of the planet.

    The image was taken at 3:38 a.m. EST on Feb. 9, 2017, when the spacecraft was 75 million miles (120 million kilometers) from Earth and 419 million miles (675 million kilometers) from Jupiter. With an exposure time of two seconds, the image renders Jupiter overexposed, but allows for enhanced detection of stars in the background.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s observation planning and processing. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the agency’s New Frontiers Program for its Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

  15. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Begins Earth-Trojan Asteroid Search

    February 9, 2017 -

    A NASA spacecraft begins its search Thursday for an enigmatic class of near-Earth objects known as Earth-Trojan asteroids. OSIRIS-REx, currently on a two-year outbound journey to the asteroid Bennu, will spend almost two weeks searching for evidence of these small bodies.

    An artist’s rendering of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s survey pattern during its Earth-Trojan Asteroid Search (not to scale). The search occurs Feb. 9-20, 2017, as the spacecraft transits the Earth’s L4 Lagrangian region. Credit: University of Arizona

    Trojan asteroids are trapped in stable gravity wells, called Lagrange points, which precede or follow a planet. OSIRIS-REx is currently traveling through Earth’s fourth Lagrange point, which is located 60 degrees ahead in Earth’s orbit around the sun, about 90 million miles (150 million kilometers) from our planet. The mission team will use this opportunity to take multiple images of the area with the spacecraft’s MapCam camera in the hope of identifying Earth-Trojan asteroids in the region.

    Although scientists have discovered thousands of Trojan asteroids accompanying other planets, only one Earth-Trojan has been identified to date, asteroid 2010 TK7. Scientists predict that there should be more Trojans sharing Earth’s orbit, but they are difficult to detect from Earth as they appear near the sun on the Earth’s horizon.

    “Because the Earth’s fourth Lagrange point is relatively stable, it is possible that remnants of the material that built Earth are trapped within it,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “So this search gives us a unique opportunity to explore the primordial building blocks of Earth.”

    The search commences today and continues through Feb. 20. On each observation day, the spacecraft’s MapCam camera will take 135 survey images that will be processed and examined by the mission’s imaging scientists at the University of Arizona, Tucson. The study plan also includes opportunities for MapCam to image Jupiter, several galaxies, and the main belt asteroids 55 Pandora, 47 Aglaja and 12 Victoria.

    Whether or not the team discovers any new asteroids, the search is a beneficial exercise. The operations involved in searching for Earth-Trojan asteroids closely resemble those required to search for natural satellites and other potential hazards around Bennu when the spacecraft approaches its target in 2018. Being able to practice these mission-critical operations in advance will help the OSIRIS-REx team reduce mission risk once the spacecraft arrives at Bennu.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s observation planning and processing. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the agency’s New Frontiers Program for its Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

  16. PI BLOG: Searching for the Earth-Trojan Asteroids

    January 19, 2017 -

    The OSIRIS-REx mission will take advantage of our fortuitous trajectory to search for an elusive class of asteroids that may be the remnants of the building blocks of the Earth. Since our launch on September 8, 2016, spacecraft operations for OSIRIS-REx have gone well.

  17. Successful Deep Space Maneuver for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft

    January 17, 2017 -

    New tracking data confirms that NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft aced its first Deep Space Maneuver (DSM-1) on Dec. 28, 2016. The engine burn sets up the spacecraft for an Earth gravity assist this fall as it continues its two-year journey to the asteroid Bennu.

    Artist’s conception of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft during a burn of its main engine. Credit: University of Arizona

    The large maneuver was the first using OSIRIS-REx’s main engines and resulted in a 964 miles per hour (431 meters per second) change in the vehicle’s velocity utilizing 780 pounds (354 kilograms) of fuel.

    Tracking data from the Deep Space Network (DSN) confirmed the successful maneuver, and subsequent downlink of high-rate telemetry from the spacecraft shows that all subsystems performed as expected.

    “DSM-1 was our first major trajectory change and first use of the main engines, so it’s good to have that under our belts and be on a safe trajectory to Bennu,” said Arlin Bartels, deputy project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    DSM-1 represents the first major, post-launch milestone for OSIRIS-REx. The significant change in trajectory from DSM-1 was necessary to put OSIRIS-REx on course for an encounter with Earth in September of this year.

    A smaller trajectory correction maneuver will be executed on Wednesday, Jan. 18 to refine the course for the Earth flyby, during which Earth’s gravity will bend the OSIRIS-REx trajectory and slinging it toward a rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu in the fall of 2018.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s observation planning and processing. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing spacecraft flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the agency’s New Frontiers Program for its Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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