Spaceflight Insider

Photo Gallery: Launch of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx

United Launch Alliance Atlas V 411 with NASA OSIRIS-REx mission lifts off from Cape Canaveral's SLC-41 at the very opening of the mission's launch window at 7:05 p.m. EDT (23:05 GMT). Photo Credit: Laurel Ann Whitlock / SpaceFlight Insider

United Launch Alliance Atlas V 411 with NASA OSIRIS-REx mission lifts off from Cape Canaveral’s SLC-41 at the very opening of the mission’s launch window at 7:05 p.m. EDT (23:05 GMT). Photo Credit: Laurel Ann Whitlock / SpaceFlight Insider

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — On Thursday, Sept. 8, United Launch Alliance carried out the fourth flight of the 411 configuration of their Atlas V rocket. The flight was as beautiful as it was apparently uneventful. SFI staff, as always, produced some of the best images from in and around the launch site – but don’t take our word for it.

United Launch Alliance Atlas V 411 with NASA OSIRIS-REx mission lifts off from Cape Canaveral's SLC-41 at the very opening of the mission's launch window at 7:05 p.m. EDT (23:05 GMT). Photo Credit: Charles Twine / SpaceFlight Insider

Its plume marking its path to orbit, OSIRIS-REx departs Earth for the asteroid 101955 Bennu. Photo Credit: Charles Twine / SpaceFlight Insider

For OSIRIS-REx, SpaceFlight Insider brought out all of our biggest photographic “guns”, some of whom came from out-of-state to document the historic flight of NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRISREx) sample return mission.

OSIRIS-REx is a mission that is planned to encompass some seven years. The Lockheed-Martin-built probe will fly to Bennu, where it will collect a sample of the rocky body and then travel back to Earth. This past week, SFI’s Visual Team was focused on issues more terrestrial in origin.

As always, SFI’s Visual Team is led by Mike Howard and Mike Deep. We also had our assistants Laurel Ann Whitlock and Michael McCabe help them in setting up the 14 still and video stations at the Cape’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. Accompanying them were veteran aerospace photojournalist Carleton Bailie and Charles Twine (who set their own stations).

On top of that, SFI also had Jim Siegel photographing what some in the media have humorously dubbed “shuttle-palooza” (NASA hosts an array of tours and events during launches as well as their highly regarded Socials).

It’s easy to gloss over this and think that remote photography is simple. It is not. It is one of the most complicated and challenging endeavors one can ever try to undertake. Not only do you need to be a true professional photographer, you have to have an ingrained understanding of weather conditions, wind direction, lighting, electronics, as well as several other fields – and that is just for still remote photography (video from the pad is much more complicated).

On top of that, rockets are highly dangerous vehicles with equally high-explosive yields should something go awry – you never know if you’re going to see the stations that you set out by the pad again (each of which can cost around a few hundred dollars or more).

Because of the possibility of accidents, Launch Service Providers carry out their tasks in remote locations – where temperature extremes can be severe, where stinging, biting insects carry out coordinate attacks, and where alligators and grumpy boar hogs are always close at hand.

SFI’s Visual Team does not always get the credit it is due. However, on this occasion, at least one person, ULA‘s Jessica Rye, reached out to us after we had shared our images with her and said, simply, “Thank you.” It had been an exhausting, stressful, and successful week for SFI’s Visual Team, who recorded the start of OSIRIS-REx’s journey to Bennu with skill, grace, and professionalism.

Click any image to view in a larger size, the views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not, necessarily, reflect those of SpaceFlight Insider.

OSIRIS-REXThe Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer is a NASA spacecraft designed to orbit, analyze, sample, and return a sample from the asteroid Bennu. Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 on an Atlas V 411 rocket, OSIRIS-REx will slingshot around Earth in 2017 to reach Bennu’s orbit in 2018. After collecting information on the asteroid’s surface makeup, a sample site will be selected in 2020. Thanks to the asteroid’s low gravity, the spacecraft will be able to drop to within 10 feet (3.05 meters) of the surface, extend a robotic sampling arm to collect material from the surface, and return to orbit. The collection head of the sampling arm will expel a jet of nitrogen to blow regolith from the surface and into the collector. OSIRIS-REx will return to Earth by September of 2023, with its sample capsule reentering Earth’s atmosphere and parachuting to the surface.

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