Adcole Space, a Redwire subsidiary specializing in attitude and control system solutions, held its collective breath with NASA mission control on October 20 as NASA’s OSIRIS-REx successfully fulfilled part of its mission to collect dust and rock samples from asteroid Bennu. In addition to the delicate nature of this task, Adcole Space has a stake in the mission, as the company’s Coarse Sun Sensor is responsible for OSIRIS-REx’s solar-array pointing, sun acquisition, and fail-safe recovery operations.
The Coarse Sun Sensor Detector is a navigational instrument used by spacecraft to detect the position of the sun.
After orbiting the near-Earth asteroid Bennu for nearly two years, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully made sample collections from Bennu. Part of this feat is that the spacecraft did not touch down on Bennu; only the robotic sample arm set down on the surface of the asteroid. The van-sized spacecraft negotiated building-size boulders to reach a relatively clear space called Nightingale, which is roughly a few parking spaces in size.
If all goes to plan, that sample will be returned to Earth in September 2023.
The arm reached out to collect a sample, which could be between 2 ounces and 2 kilograms. The spacecraft then backed away to safety.
Redwire is proud to be part of this historic mission. Amongst other scientific advances put forth by this mission, humankind will get a glimpse into the origins of the universe. The samples from Bennu could help scientists understand not only more about asteroids that could impact Earth, but also about how planets formed, and life on Earth began.