NASA Begins Construction on Spacecraft That Will Take Sample From Asteroid in 2018

Posted on April 13, 2014

Osiris-Rex spacecraft

NASA has started building the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft that will visit the asteroid Bennu in 2018 and return with a sample. NASA was given the go-ahead for the mission last week after a successful Mission Critical Design Review (CDR) for NASA's Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx). The spacecraft is scheduled to launch in the fall of 2016, rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu in 2018 and return a sample of it to Earth in 2023.

Gordon Johnston, OSIRIS-REx program executive at NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC, says in a statement, "This is the final step for a NASA mission to go from paper to product. This confirms that the final design is ready to start the build-up towards launch."

The spacecraft carries five instruments that will remotely evaluate the surface of Bennu. After more than a year of asteroid reconnaissance, the spacecraft will collect samples of at least 2 ounces (60 grams) and return them to Earth. NASA prepared this animation of the mission last year. Take a look:

This is a separate event from other asteroid missions being considered, such as the bagging an asteroid concept.

Image: NASA/Goddard