/ Modified aug 19, 2016 2:36 p.m.

Spacecraft for UA Asteroid Mission Heads to Florida Friday

Preparation begins for launch Sept. 8 on seven-year-long mission.

Asteroid with Rings SPOT OSIRIS-REx is an asteroid sample return mission.

The University of Arizona’s upcoming mission to an asteroid will reach a milestone Friday when the space vehicle built for it travels by airplane to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was built by Lockheed Martin in Denver. For the past 10 months, mission personnel have installed cameras built at the UA along with other instruments. The equipment will be used to map the asteroid’s surface and take a sample to be brought to Earth.

“OSIRIS-REX is in great shape. Our spacecraft assembly is complete. We’ve been through our environmental test program. And we are getting ready to ship down to Florida to begin integrating with the launch vehicle,” said Dante Lauretta, the mission’s principal investigator from the UA’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

A U.S. Air Force transport plane will take the spacecraft from Colorado’s Buckley Air Force Base to the Florida launch site.

OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to launch Sept. 8. After launch, the mission will be directed from the UA’s Michael J. Drake Building.

ORex countdown A clock counts down the days until the OSIRIS-REx launch in September 2016.
Sara Hammond, AZPM

The spacecraft will arrive at the asteroid named Bennu in 2018 and map the entire asteroid before taking a sample in July 2020. A portion of the spacecraft will return the sample to Earth in 2023. Scientists hope the sample reveals clues to the solar system’s origin.

The Arizona Science Desk is a collaboration of public broadcasting entities in the state, including Arizona Public Media.

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