NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, was successfully launched at 7:05 p.m. ET on 8th September from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 411 rocket. The spacecraft has departed Earth and is now on its seven-year journey to study near-Earth asteroid Bennu and bring a sample back to Earth.
The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-Rex) separated from the rocket’s Centaur upper stage 59 minutes after launch. Soon after, it autonomously deployed its two solar arrays and then turned on its telecommunications radio. Initial communication with the spacecraft was obtained by the mission’s flight operations team at Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ facility near Denver at 8:08 p.m. ET.
OSIRIS-REx – the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program – is the Agency’s first mission to sample an asteroid. Its target is Bennu, a 4.5 billion-year-old, carbon-rich asteroid that is expected to host organic molecules. Arriving in 2018, it will survey the surface, collect at least 60 grams (2.1 ounces) of surface material and return it to Earth in 2023 for extensive study. Analysis of the material will give insight into the earliest stages of the solar system’s formation and evolution.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. The University of Arizona leads the science team and observation planning and processing.
France’s CNES space agency is supporting the mission via the work of four co-investigators from the laboratories of CNRS, the French national scientific research centre.