Nasa to start building asteroid sample-return spacecraft

11 April 2014
By Tereza Pultarova
Mobile version
Share |
The OSIRIS REx mission is Nasa's first attempt to bring a sample from an asteroid to Earth

The OSIRIS REx mission is Nasa's first attempt to bring a sample from an asteroid to Earth [Credit: Nasa]

Nasa will start building its first spacecraft to land and collect samples from an asteroid after the OSIRIS-REx project passed a major review.

Engineers from Nasa and other institutions evaluating the proposed design of the spacecraft, its flight instruments, ground systems and launch support facilities concluded the project is ready to move from paper to construction to aim for a 2016 launch date.

"Successfully passing mission Critical Design Review is a major accomplishment, but the hard part is still in front of us - building, integrating and testing the flight system in support of a tight planetary launch window," said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

The $800m (£480m) OSIRIS-Rex mission is Nasa’s first attempt to return a physical sample from an asteroid to Earth, which is currently scheduled for 2023. Its target is the 493-m in diameter 101955 Bennu asteroid, which is on the list of potential Earth impactors.

The spacecraft, to be built by Lockheed Martin, will carry five instruments for remote sensing and reconnaissance. After landing on Bennu's surface after a two-year journey through space, the spacecraft will spend one year scanning the asteroid before collecting a sample. It will attempt to return some 60 grams of soil to Earth for scientists to study.

“This is a pioneering effort, both technologically and scientifically," lead scientist Dante Lauretta, with the University of Arizona in Tucson, said in a statement.

Scientists hope the samples would allow them to gain more insight into the evolution of the Solar System as the chemical composition of asteroids is believed not to have changed considerably over millions of years due to the lack of geological processes. Asteroids crashing into the Earth in the early phases of the planet’s evolution are also believed to have brought organic components that eventually enabled the creation of life – something the researchers are eager to confirm.

In January, Nasa invited people from around the world to submit their names to be etched on a microchip aboard the spacecraft. After submitting their name, participants are able to download and print a certificate documenting their participation in the OSIRIS-REx mission.

The spacecraft will be launched aboard an Atlas 5 rocket by United Launch Services in September 2013. Nasa already signed a $183.5m contract with the launch provider.

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1606

"Where would Frankenstein and his creative mind fit into today's workplace? Should we fear technological developments or embrace them?"

E&T jobs

  • Nuclear Facilities Governance Manager

    BAE Systems
    • England, Cumbria, Barrow-In-Furness
    • Negotiable

    Nuclear Facilities Governance Manager Would you like to be accountable for all the Nuclear Governance for both existing day to day facilities on the Barrow Site in addition to the Proposed Facilities development which is part of the multi-million pound si

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Maritime Engineering Opportunities

    Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S)
    • Bristol
    • £30,424 - £35,285

    You will be working alongside a team of people who are immensely proud of what they do in providing the best possible service to our Armed Forces

    • Recruiter: Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S)

    Apply for this job

  • Engineering Manager

    BAE Systems
    • Hampshire, England, Portsmouth
    • Competitive package

    Would you like to play a vital role in managing and implementing the correct governance in order to enable BAE Systems to provide assurance and integrity of supply chain data? We currently have a vacancy for an Engineering Manager - Product Integrity

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Consultant Engineer - Test

    BAE Systems
    • Farnborough, Hampshire, England
    • Negotiable

    Consultant Engineer - Test Would you like to be a lead within an exciting team working on one of the UK's largest defence projects? We currently have a vacancy for a Consultant Engineer - Test at our site in Ash Vale. As a Consultant Engineer - Test, you

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Structural Designer

    BAE Systems
    • England, Barrow-In-Furness, Cumbria
    • Negotiable

    Structural Designer BAE Systems is looking to recruit multiple Structural Designers to join our Maritime Submarines unit to be based in our site in Barrow-in-Furness, as the Trident Replacement Programme progresses towards the start of the build stage in

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Mechanical Design Engineer

    BAE Systems
    • England, Hampshire, Portsmouth
    • Negotiable

    Mechanical Design Engineer Would you like to work in an interesting and challenging role with the chance to gain exposure to a number of maritime projects? We currently have a vacancy for a Mechanical Design Engineer at our site in Portsmouth. As a Design

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Operations Manager

    BAE Systems
    • England, Barrow-In-Furness, Cumbria
    • Negotiable

    Operations Manager We currently have an opportunity for an Operations Manager to join our Maritime - Submarines business area at our Barrow-In-Furness site. As the Operations Manager you will work within a Construction or Manufacturing Facility and be res

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Principal Chemist

    BAE Systems
    • Barrow-In-Furness, Cumbria, England
    • Negotiable

    Principal Chemist Would you like to play a key role in the safety and assurance of submarines for the Royal Navy? We currently have a vacancy for a Principal Chemist at our site in Barrow-in-Furness. As a Principal Chemist, you will be carrying out a rang

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Software Engineer

    BAE Systems
    • England, Hampshire, Portsmouth
    • Competitive package

    As a Software Engineer, you will be investigating how technology and data can be used to optimise the services we provide to our clients, including the Royal Navy, and will include unique pieces of equipment at the forefront of innovation.

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Principal Control Systems Engineer

    BAE Systems
    • England, Cumbria, Barrow-In-Furness
    • Competitive package

    As a Principal Engineer you will be responsible for the design and integration of control systems at a safety integrity level (SIL) 3. This will include requirements management, system design, and integration into the wider platform.

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶

Subscribe

Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T