Checkpoint: OSIRIS-REx Practices Sample Collection

The Nightingale Crater on asteroid Bennu is the primary sample collection site for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx’s mission. The image is overlaid with a graphic of the spacecraft to illustrate the scale of the site. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — In August, the robotic spacecraft will make NASA’s first-ever attempt to descend to the surface of an asteroid, collect a sample and ultimately bring it safely back to Earth.

In order to achieve this challenging feat, the mission team devised new techniques to operate in asteroid Bennu’s microgravity environment – but they still need experience flying the spacecraft in close proximity to the asteroid in order to test them.

So, before touching down at sample site Nightingale this summer, OSIRIS-REx will first rehearse the activities leading up to the event.

On Apr. 14, the mission will pursue its first practice run – officially known as “Checkpoint” rehearsal – which will also place the spacecraft the closest it’s ever been to Bennu. This rehearsal is a chance for the OSIRIS-REx team and spacecraft to test the first steps of the robotic sample collection event.

There will be a four-hour social media campaign on @OSIRISREx and @NASASolarSystem.

Rehearsal Time for NASA’s Asteroid Sampling Spacecraft

This artist’s concept shows the trajectory and configuration of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft during Checkpoint rehearsal, which is the first time the mission will practice the initial steps for collecting a sample from asteroid Bennu. (Credits: NASA/ Goddard/University of Arizona)

By Brittany Enos
University of Arizona

In August, a robotic spacecraft will make NASA’s first-ever attempt to descend to the surface of an asteroid, collect a sample, and ultimately bring it safely back to Earth. In order to achieve this challenging feat, the OSIRIS-REx mission team devised new techniques to operate in asteroid Bennu’s microgravity environment – but they still need experience flying the spacecraft in close proximity to the asteroid in order to test them. So, before touching down at sample site Nightingale this summer, OSIRIS-REx will first rehearse the activities leading up to the event.

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New Observations Suggest Psyche’s Composition Different Than Thought

This artist’s concept depicts the spacecraft of NASA’s Psyche mission near the mission’s target, the metal asteroid Psyche. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

TEMPE, Az. (ASU PR) — The Arizona State University-led NASA Psyche mission, which is planned to launch in 2022, will travel to an asteroid named Psyche, orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter. This asteroid is of particular interest in that it is rich in metal and may be the exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet, one of the building blocks of the sun’s planetary system.

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NASA Science Keeps the Lights On

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Across NASA’s many missions, thousands of scientists, engineers, and other experts and professionals all over the country are doing what they do best, but now from home offices and via video conferencing. With most personnel supporting missions remotely to keep onsite staff at a minimal level in response to COVID-19, the Agency is moving ahead strongly with everything from space exploration to using our technology and innovation to help inform policy makers.  

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Asteroid Ryugu Likely Link in Planetary Formation

Formation scenario for Ryugu. More than one year ago, the Japanese Hayabusa2 orbiter deployed the German lander, MASCOT, which investigated the approximately one-kilometre-diameter asteroid Ryugu. Scientists are now imagining the history of its formation 4.5 billion years ago. First, flakes and grains of dust formed in the disc of dust and gas rotating around the Sun (1), before porous planetesimals agglomerated due to the accretion of these loose flakes (2). Recent investigations suggest that Ryugu’s parent body hardly condensed and was also highly porous. This may have resulted in the formation of a firmer core, but scientists also believe that a gradual increase in density towards the centre of the parent body is conceivable (3). Impacts and collisions with other asteroids (4) led to a fragmentation of the parent body; the large boulders on Ryugu probably originated here. Part of the debris was then the source material for the accretion of Ryugu (5), with porous blocks and loose material, and also some more compact blocks of higher density from the original core, some of which remain on the surface. Ryugu‘s present diamondlike shape (6) occurred over time due to its rotation. (Credit: Okada et al. Nature 2020)
  • Infrared images show that Ryugu is almost entirely made up.
  • The asteroid was formed largely from fragments of a parent body that was shattered by impacts of highly porous material.
  • DLR scientists participate in the publication in the scientific journal Nature.

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — The Solar System formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago. Numerous fragments that bear witness to this early era orbit the Sun as asteroids. Around three-quarters of these are carbon-rich C-type asteroids, such as 162173 Ryugu, which was the target of the Japanese Hayabusa2 mission in 2018 and 2019. The spacecraft is currently on its return flight to Earth.

Numerous scientists, including planetary researchers from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), intensively studied this cosmic ‘rubble pile’, which is almost one kilometre in diameter and can come close to Earth. Infrared images acquired by Hayabusa2 have now been published in the scientific journal Nature. They show that the asteroid consists almost entirely of highly porous material.

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Lunar Gateway: Earth’s Guard Post Against Asteroids?

The Gateway concept (Credit: NASA/ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Humankind’s next space outpost, the lunar Gateway, will serve as a staging point to reach the surface of the Moon. A new ESA-backed study is considering whether it could also be used as a deployment point for planetary defence missions, to intercept asteroids approaching dangerously close to Earth.

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Bennu’s Boulders Shine as Beacons for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx

During the sample collection event, Natural Feature Tracking (NFT) will guide NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to asteroid Bennu’s surface. The spacecraft takes real-time images of the asteroid’s surface features as it descends, and then compares these images with an onboard image catalog. The spacecraft then uses these geographical markers to orient itself and accurately target the touchdown site. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — This summer, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will undertake NASA’s first-ever attempt to touch the surface of an asteroid, collect a sample of it, and safely back away. But since arriving at asteroid Bennu over a year ago, the mission team has been tackling an unexpected challenge: how to accomplish this feat at an asteroid whose surface is blanketed in building-sized boulders.

Using these hazardous boulders as signposts, the mission team developed a new precision navigation method to overcome the challenge.

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First Official Names Given to Features on Asteroid Bennu

This flat projection mosaic of asteroid Bennu shows the locations of the first 12 surface features to receive official names from the International Astronomical Union. The accepted names were proposed by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx team members, who have been mapping the asteroid in detail over the last year. Bennu’s surface features are named after birds and bird-like creatures in mythology, and the places associated with them. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

by Nancy Neal Jones
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — Asteroid Bennu’s most prominent boulder, a rock chunk jutting out 71 ft (21.7 m) from the asteroid’s southern hemisphere, finally has a name. The boulder – which is so large that it was initially detected from Earth – is officially designated Benben Saxum after the primordial hill that first arose from the dark waters in an ancient Egyptian creation myth.  

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Xplore Selects Orbit Fab’s RAFTI Design Standard for its Exploration Missions

Xcraft (Credit: Xplore)

March 5, 2020, Seattle, Washington (Xplore PR) – Xplore Inc., a commercial space company providing Space As A ServiceTM today announced they are integrating the Orbit Fab RAFTI into the XcraftTM, Xplore’s highly-capable, multi-mission ESPA-class spacecraft.

The RAFTI, which stands for Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface, allows for reliable propellant transfers in the harshest space environments. It is ideal for mission destinations in any orbit, and thus aligns with Xplore’s ability to fly missions at destinations from Earth to the Moon, Mars, Venus, LaGrange points, Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) and other locations in our inner solar system, more than 320 million km (200 million miles) from Earth.

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OSIRIS-REx Swoops Over Sample Site Nightingale

On Mar. 3, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft performed a low-altitude flyover of site Nightingale. During the pass, science observations of asteroid Bennu took place from a distance of approximately 820 ft (250 m) – the closest the spacecraft has ever been to the asteroid’s surface. (Credit: University of Arizona)

OSIRIS-REx Mission Update
March 4, 2020

NASA’s first asteroid-sampling spacecraft just got its best look yet at asteroid Bennu. Yesterday, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft executed a very low pass over sample site Nightingale, taking observations from an altitude of 820 feet (250 m), which is the closest that OSIRIS-REx has flown over the asteroid so far. Nightingale, OSIRIS-REx’s primary sample collection site, is located within a crater in Bennu’s northern hemisphere.

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Janus Satellite to Explore Binary Asteroid

NASA rendering of a Janus satellite rendezvousing with a binary asteroid. (Credit: NASA)

Janus: Reconnaissance Missions to Binary Asteroids

Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon Heavy (secondary payload on Psyche mission)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Launch Date: July 2022
NASA Program: Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx)

Description

Janus: Reconnaissance Missions to Binary Asteroids will study the formation and evolutionary implications for small “rubble pile” asteroids and build an accurate model of two binary asteroid bodies. A binary asteroid is a system of two asteroids orbiting their common center of mass.

The principal investigator is Daniel Scheeres at the University of Colorado. Lockheed Martin will provide project management.

SIMPLEx

Using small spacecraft – less than 400 pounds, or 180 kilograms, in mass – SIMPLEx selections will conduct stand-alone planetary science missions. Each will share their ride to space with either another NASA mission or a commercial launch opportunity.

Janus will be managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama as part of the Solar System Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NASA Selects SpaceX Falcon Heavy to Launch Psyche Mission

NASA’s Psyche mission to a distant metal asteroid will carry a revolutionary Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package. This artist’s concept shows Psyche spacecraft with a five-panel array. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the agency’s Psyche mission. The Psyche mission currently is targeted to launch in July 2022 on a Falcon Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The total cost for NASA to launch Psyche and the secondary payloads is approximately $117 million, which includes the launch service and other mission related costs.

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Turbulent Times Revealed on Asteroid 4 Vesta

This mosaic synthesizes the best views that NASA’s Dawn spacecraft had of giant asteroid Vesta. Dawn studied Vesta from July 2011 to September 2012. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

PERTH, Australia (Curtain University PR) — Planetary scientists at Curtin University have shed some light on the tumultuous early days of the largely preserved protoplanet Asteroid 4 Vesta, the second largest asteroid in our Solar System

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