Osiris-Rex spacecraft aligns with Earth to drop samples it picked from asteroid

by The Technical Blogs


Nasa’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is on a historic mission to return samples from the asteroid Bennu to Earth. On September 10, the spacecraft executed a critical trajectory-correction maneuver, firing its Attitude Control System (ACS) thrusters to align itself with Earth.

This adjustment, which changed the spacecraft’s velocity by approximately half a mile per hour, was crucial to ensure the safe delivery of the sample capsule.

The OSIRIS-REx, currently 4 million miles away and traveling at about 14,000 mph toward Earth, is scheduled to release the sample capsule from a distance of 63,000 miles above Earth’s surface on September 24. Without the recent trajectory adjustment, the spacecraft and its precious cargo would have bypassed Earth.

Surface of asteroid Bennu and the location from where Osiri-Rex picked up the samples. (Photo: Nasa)

The sample capsule, carrying rocks and dust from asteroid Bennu, will enter the atmosphere just off the coast of California at 8:42 a.m. MDT / 10:42 a.m. EDT. Approximately 13 minutes after release, it is expected to land in a predetermined area on the Department of Defense’s Utah Test and Training Range, southwest of Salt Lake City.

This mission marks the first US endeavor to collect a sample from an asteroid and return it to Earth. The pristine material from Bennu will provide scientists with invaluable insights into the early solar system and the origins of life.

Following the release of the sample capsule, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will embark on its next mission. Approximately 20 minutes post-release, the spacecraft will fire its engines to divert past Earth and set course for asteroid Apophis, marking the beginning of the OSIRIS-APEX (OSIRIS-Apophis Explorer) mission.

Engineers may execute another thruster firing on September 17 if they determine that one final adjustment to the spacecraft’s trajectory is necessary before the capsule’s release a week later.

Edited By:

Sibu Kumar Tripathi

Published On:

Sep 12, 2023


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