The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) asteroid study and sample-return mission, Origins, Spectral, Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx), has completed its second and final test run in preparation for its actual mission two months from now, August 12.
What transpired during the final test run?
This is OSIRIS-Rex’s second and final test run before its actual first sample collection attempt in the asteroid Bennu slated on October 20th. This test is different from the first one for its features and added scenarios in the landing sequence and to ensure a smooth run of events in the planned actual sample collection.
It took more than four hours for the asteroid study craft to perform the first three steps of the four in the planned maneuver sequence – first, the orbit departure burn; next is the so-called ‘Checkpoint’ burn; and, finally the Matchpoint burn. Each step is crucial for the craft’s built-in systems checks whether everything happens according to plan.
It hovered over its actual target landing spot, Nightingale, at a height of more than 130 feet (40 meters) before it safely returned to its previous position before the test run was conducted.
Several of the built-in data gathering tools and equipment aboard OSIRIS-REx were also able to perform their test runs including its sampling arm called the ‘Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism’ (TAGSAM). Data gathered during the meticulously choreographed final test run were downlinked to Earth after it ended.
Due to asteroid Bennu’s and the craft’s distance from Earth, there has been a delay in the communication which is more than 16 minutes. Therefore, the craft was given all the command codes beforehand and have done everything independently during Tuesday’s test.
The rehearsal was crucial in providing the team over at NASA the important data in the crafts navigational and hazard maps which they can use to either update or improve the actual plans for October’s sampling event.
In a press release by the space agency, OSIRIX-REx’s principal investigator Dante Lauretta has shared the team’s enthusiasm in the actual mission in October due to the resounding success of yesterday’s final trial run.
The Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland is currently in charge of providing the mission’s overall management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance. Lauretta is the project’s principal investigator and is from the University of Arizona – Tucson. After its successful first sample collection attempt, the craft will return to Earth on September 24 the year after.