Spaceflight Insider

Comm tests for OSIRIS-REx conclude

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is hoisted onto the test stand in this image. Photo Credit: Dimitri Gerondidakis / NASA

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is hoisted onto the test stand in this image. Photo Credit: Dimitri Gerondidakis / NASA

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Engineers working on NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft successfully carried out tests of the vehicle’s communications systems. The tests were recently conducted at the center’s MIL-71 in preparation for a launch currently slated to take place on Sept. 8, 2016.

These tests were the latest milestone that OSIRIS-REx completed in preparation for a flight aloft atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 411 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida.

OSIRIS-REx undergoing testing Lockheed Martin photo posted on SpaceFlight Insider

OSIRIS-REx has undergone extensive testing prior to its planned Sept. 2016 launch date. (Click to enlarge) Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

OSIRIS-REx is a sample-return mission that NASA is planning on launching to collect a piece of asteroid Bennu and then fly back to Earth for scientists to study.

The recent tests were held to ensure the spacecraft will be able to send important information to mission managers back on Earth. Data transmitted through the vehicle’s communications system includes, but is not limited to, scientific discoveries, the vehicle’s overall health, and a survey of Bennu.

The tests provided mission planners with the opportunity to see how OSIRIS-REx’s communications systems will operate when they are millions of miles in space – even though the test site was located next door to where the spacecraft was situated.

OSIRIS-REx’s comms system was checked out at KSC as well as at the space agency’s Deep Space Network which has antennas located in Canberra, Australia, California and in Spain. These are not the dishes that the average citizen uses for television or internet services; however, some of Deep Space Network’s antenna measure 230 feet in diameter.

As one might imagine, for NASA to be able to even conduct the test means that the agency must use a diverse array of equipment and personnel.

If everything goes according to plan, all of the team’s hard work will be validated about 20 minutes after the probe soars off the pad and into the sky. At that time, the team should know that the communications systems are working as advertised. This should take place around the same time that the spacecraft separates from Atlas’ Centaur upper stage and then deploys its solar array.

OSIRIS-REx cost an estimated $800 million, with the Atlas V 411 booster costing an additional $184 million. The mission’s Principal Investigator, Dante Lauretta, hails from the University of Arizona and it is the third mission selected under NASA’s New Frontiers Program and

The mission has its work cut out for it as scientists hope it will be able to provide them with a better understanding of how the planets formed and life began on Earth.


Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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