Tag Archives: Bennu

ULA shuffles Atlas 5 schedule

ULA has rearranged the upcoming launch schedule of its Atlas 5 in the wake of its investigation of the valve issue that causes a premature shutdown of the first stage Russian engine during the Cygnus launch in March.

Originally they had intended to do three launches before the September 8 launch of NASA’s Osiris-REX asteroid mission. Now they will only do two, to give them additional time to test the rocket that will launch Osiris-REX.

August will be spent stacking an Atlas 5 rocket with a single solid booster, the 411 configuration, and rolling the vehicle to the pad for a rare countdown dress rehearsal to ensure systems are operating correctly ahead of the time-sensitive launch of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe to asteroid Bennu.

The spacecraft has a launch window that closes October 12.

OSIRIS-REx to get more fuel for its asteroid mission

In what might be a first for the planetary science/engineering community, an unmanned probe, being built to bring samples back from the asteroid Bennu, is turning out to be lighter than expected, thus allowing engineers to stuff its tanks with extra fuel to extend its mission.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, being built at a Lockheed Martin facility in Denver, is coming in lighter than the lift capability of the Atlas 5 rocket, which will lift off in its “411” configuration with a four-meter payload fairing, a single-engine Centaur upper stage, and one strap-on solid rocket booster.

The proposal — described as a “heavy launch option” — would add an extra 341 pounds of fuel to the spacecraft’s fuel tank.

Planetary probes never end up lighter than planned, at least until now. During construction scientists have always found it impossible to resist adding more instruments or capabilities, and thus engineers always struggle to get the spacecraft built within its weight budget. For OSIRIS-REx to have this wonderful problem is surely astonishing.

In a NASA contest, a nine-year-old has named asteroid 1999 RQ36 after the Egyptian god Bennu.

A rose by any other name: In a NASA contest, a nine-year-old has named asteroid 1999 RQ36 after the Egyptian god Bennu.

1999 RQ36, or Bennu, is an important asteroid for two reasons. First, NASA is sending an unmanned sample return mission to it in 2016. Second, some calculations suggest the asteroid has a 1 in a 1000 chance of hitting the Earth in 2182.

In other naming news, the private space company Uwingu has launched its “Adopt-a-Planet” campaign.

This open-ended campaign gives anyone in the public—worldwide—the opportunity to adopt exoplanets in astronomical databases via Uwingu’s web site at www.uwingu.com. Proceeds from the naming and voting will continue to help fuel new Uwingu grants to fund space exploration, research, and education.

As noted earlier, they are ignoring the IAU’s stuffy insistence that only the IAU can name things in space.