22/09/2017

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft
spotted from Deimos Sky Survey

Elecnor Deimos Space Situation Awareness team has captured images of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from Deimos Sky Survey (DeSS), the company’s Space Surveillance & Tracking observatory located in Niefla mountain, Spain. According to the latest communications on the mission’s website, the spacecraft will fly past Earth on September 22 at 16:52 UTC to perform an Earth gravity assist, using the planet’s gravity to slingshot itself toward asteroid Bennu.

OSIRIS-REx is an asteroid sample return mission that aims at bringing back to Earth and analysing a piece of the surface of Bennu, which was chosen among the more than 7000 Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) that were known in 2008. Besides, it will map the carbonaceous asteroid, document the sample site, measure the orbit deviation caused by non-gravitational forces (the Yarkovsky effect) and compare ground-based observations to those performed at the asteroid.

DeSS’s sensor Tracker-2 obtained the first images of OSIRIS-REx during the night of September 18-19, when it was still more than 2 million kilometres away

DeSS’s sensor Tracker-2 obtained the first images of the spacecraft, whose dimensions are 3.2 x 2.4 x 2.4 meters, during the night of September 18-19, when OSIRIS-REx was still more than 2 million kilometres away. The orange lines show the path followed by the spacecraft, which can be seen as a pale white dot crossing the night sky.

osiris-rex

New observations were obtained during the night of September 20-21, when OSIRIS-REx was at a distance of around 1 million kilometres. The spacecraft is more distinguishable in these latter captures, becoming brighter as it approaches the Earth to perform the gravity assist manoeuvre.

After borrowing a bit of our planet’s orbital energy, OSIRIS-REx will continue its space trip to Bennu. The expected date of arrival to the asteroid is August 2018.

More information about the mission is available at https://www.asteroidmission.org/

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