NASA's team which will be conducting the first US mission to collect samples from an asteroid has been given the go-ahead to begin building the spacecraft, flight instruments and ground system, and launch support facilities.
This determination was made Wednesday after a successful Mission Critical Design Review (CDR) for NASA's Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx).
The CDR was held at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Littleton, Colo., April 1-9.
Gordon Johnston, OSIRIS-REx program executive at NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC, said this is the final step for a NASA mission to go from paper to product, asserting this confirms that the final design is ready to start the build-up towards launch.
OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to launch in the fall of 2016, rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu in 2018 and return a sample of it to Earth in 2023.
The spacecraft carries five instruments that will remotely evaluate the surface of Bennu. After more than a year of asteroid reconnaissance, the spacecraft will collect samples of at least 2 ounces (60 grams) and return them to Earth for scientists to study.