NASA's OSIRIS REx Spacecraft One Rehearsal Away From Asteroid-sampling
NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is all set for its final rehearsal before landing on the surface of asteroid Bennu in a bid to grab a sample from the surface of the space rock. According to the US space agency, OSIRIS-REx is the first asteroid sampling spacecraft and it has been orbiting around Bennu since 2018. NASA informed that the spacecraft will practice its touchdown sequence on August 11.
According to NASA, OSIRIS-REx will rehearse the touch-and-fro sample collection event and will also add a third manoeuvre, called the 'Matchpoint burn'. The spacecraft will even fly closer to the sample site Nightingale before backing away from the asteroid. The US space agency informed that OSIRIS-REx will fly in tandem with Bennu's rotation for the first time.
The upcoming rehearsal is expected to give the mission scientists another opportunity to practice navigating the spacecraft through the descent manoeuvres. Further, it will also help the scientists in knowing more about the spacecraft's imaging, navigation, and ranging systems.
NASA said, "Prior to the rehearsal's start, the OSIRIS-REx team will uplink all of the event's commands to the spacecraft, allowing OSIRIS-REx to perform the rehearsal sequence autonomously after the GO command is given".
They further added, "The OSIRIS-REx team will verify the flight system's performance during the descent, including that the Matchpoint burn accurately adjusted the spacecraft's descent trajectory for its touchdown on Bennu. Once the mission team determines that OSIRIS-REx operated as expected, they will command the spacecraft to return to its safe-home orbit around Bennu".
Sample scheduled to return in 2023
The US space agency announced that during the rehearsal, the spacecraft will perform several different activities. OSIRIS-REx will travel at an average speed of 0.2 mph and will fire its thrusters three separate times during its descent to the surface of the asteroid. Furthermore, NASA said that on the day of rehearsal, a limited number of researchers will monitor the spacecraft from Lockheed Martin Space's facility.
OSIRIS-REx will travel all the way to the asteroid's surface on October 20. NASA informed that during the event, OSIRIS-REx's sampling mechanism will touch Bennu's surface for approximately five seconds, fire a charge of pressurised nitrogen to disturb the surface, and collect a sample before the spacecraft backs away. The spacecraft is scheduled to return the sample to Earth on Sept. 24, 2023.