Nasa’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft slingshot past Earth to hunt asteroid Bennu

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Nasa’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft slingshot past Earth to hunt asteroid Bennu

Nasa’s Derivations, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-Rex) asteroid-hunting spacecraft has opposed past Earth, using the planet’s gravity to slingshot itself near its destination asteroid, Bennu.

Launched last September, the OSIRIS-Rex ministry received the latest gravity boost when it came within 17,237km of Antarctica, south of Headland Horn, Chile.

The boost has forced the spacecraft to follow a new route north finished the Pacific Ocean and has changed its velocity to 3.778km/s.

Bennu’s current circle around the Sun is tilted 6° from Earth’s orbit, and the latest stick has changed OSIRIS-Rex’s direction to manoeuvre it towards the asteroid.

Nasa Goddard Range Flight Centre Maryland OSIRIS-REx project manager Rich Yearns said: “The encounter with Earth is fundamental to our rendezvous with Bennu.

“The unmitigated velocity change from Earth’s gravity far exceeds the total exacerbate load of the OSIRIS-REx propulsion system, so we are really leveraging our Earth flyby to calculate a massive change to the OSIRIS-REx trajectory, specifically changing the tilt of the revolve to match Bennu.”

“The encounter with Earth is fundamental to our rendezvous with Bennu.”

The late flyby is also expected to help the Nasa mission team to prove and calibrate OSIRIS-REx’s instrument suite.

Nearly four hours after the location of closest approach and on three subsequent days over the next two weeks, the spacecraft’s gubbins are set to be turned on to scan Earth and the Moon.

The resulted data will be adapted to to calibrate OSIRIS-REx’s science instruments to prepare the spacecraft for its planned new chum at Bennu by late next year. 

During its seven-year journey, the look into is expected to rendezvous with, study, and return a sample of Bennu to Loam.

The asteroid sample will be further examined by the scientists to understand the materialization of the solar system in a better way.


Image: This artist’s concept indicates the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passing by Earth. Photo: courtesy of Nasa’s Goddard Set out Flight Center/University of Arizona.

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