Everything remains on track today for the launch of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission at 7:05 p.m. EDT, the opening of a 2-hour window. The weather forecast continues to call for an 80 percent chance of acceptable conditions.
Bolted to the top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Space Launch Complex 41, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will be sent on a course to rendezvous with an asteroid called Bennu. Once there in August 2018, the spacecraft will take unprecedented surveys of the asteroid and then reach out a mechanical arm to grab a pristine sample of it. Then the spacecraft will head back to Earth, releasing the sample inside a specialized, heat shield-equipped capsule that will parachute the sample safely to Earth where researchers will collect it for study. The mission will take seven years to complete. Our webcast on the launch and mission is below.
Analysis of the sample will reveal the earliest stages of the solar system’s evolution and the history of Bennu over the past 4.5 billion years. Scientists expect Bennu may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of the water and organic molecules that may have made their way to Earth.
For tonight though, all eyes are on the launch. Our continuous countdown coverage will begin at 5:30 p.m. EDT on the OSIRIS-REx blog. NASA TV’s coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. with an episode of NASA Edge, then will shift at 4:30 p.m. to live views of the Atlas V rocket and OSIRIS-REx spacecraft accompanied by countdown net audio. The launch broadcast will begin at 5:30 p.m. and continue through spacecraft separation, solar array deployment and positive communication with the spacecraft by NASA’s Deep Space Network. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett