/ Modified oct 23, 2015 4:53 p.m.

To Test a Spacecraft, Shake It, Bake It and Freeze It

UA-led mission to an asteroid moves to environmental testing.

OSIRIS REx Spot OSIRIS-REx (PHOTO: AZPM Staff)

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By Sara Hammond, Arizona Science Desk

NASA and the University of Arizona’s OSIRIS- REx spacecraft is assembled and ready for its pre-flight shakedown.

Environmental testing for the next five months will assure that the craft is ready for the long journey to the asteroid named Bennu and its mission – to grab a sample of the space rock and return it to earth.

Built at Lockheed Martin’s Space System’s facilities near Denver, OSIRIS- REx will be subjected to a series of tests that will simulate the conditions it will face from launch next September to its return to Earth in 2023.

“We are going to test the spacecraft for the range of environments that it will experience on the launch vehicle, on the ride into space, and then everything on the journey to Bennu and back,” said mission principal investigator Dante Lauretta, of the UA’s Lunar and Planetary Lab.

“We’re going to shake it as hard as the rocket will shake it, look at the acoustic noise it will experience during that ride, we will put it into a thermal vacuum chamber to simulate the harsh environmental of outer space, both the intense radiation from the sun on one side and the cold darkness of deep space on the other side,” he said.

OSIRIS- REx stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer.

The scientific mission will be managed by Lauretta and his team. The UA also has a suite of three cameras aboard the spacecraft.

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

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