Two Years to Launch – Another moment to reflect…

Two years to launch!

Two years to launch!

Today marks exactly two years to the opening of the OSIRIS-REx launch window on September 3, 2016. These milestones are always a good time to reflect on the progress to date and the work going forward. Josh Wood, our Flight System Engineer at Lockheed Martin sent out a great email to the team that provides a nice perspective on where we are and helps us appreciate how amazing this project really is. I present it below to help everyone understand the pride this team has in our mission and provide a glimpse of the success yet to come.

Osirians –

Almost a year has passed since I first requested a moment to reflect on the wonders of this mission.  Like many of you, I often get bogged down in the details and the daily tasks for our given jobs, which leads to us losing sight of why we do what we do. In addition, we’ve lost some great folks to greener pastures over these past several months, which adds to the stress (but have gained many new ones to help expand our ranks). So please humor me once more by taking a step back, take a moment to reflect on what we are attempting to do, and consider the bigger picture that we are all involved in on this mission.

First, no matter your role, each and every person on this program offers something unique and special, but with one common goal – to return regolith from an asteroid. And not just any random asteroid, one that flies past Earth every 6 years with a chance to impact the planet in the distant future.  We’ll travel over 660 million miles (1060 million km) to rendezvous with this space rock.  And once there, once we’ve characterized the surface and know everything there is to know about this traveling celestial body, we’ll slowly descend to the surface to suck up a few precious bits to bring home. And we’ll collect this sample all autonomously. There is no joystick options available on this mission – When we go to lightly “tag” that asteroid at a mere 10 cm/s, we’ll be over 136 million miles (220 million km) from Earth.  To do such a remarkable feat, we need every part of the Spacecraft operating without fail as a single, coherent system.  And to create such a robust craft, it takes a remarkable team – one dedicated to the exploration of the unknown.  This is far from an easy mission, but then again, we didn’t sign up for this program because it would be easy.

We’ve come far in this last year, and we should take a chance to take a deep breathe, look back on all that we’ve accomplished over this last year:

Successful completion of Subsystem and System CDRs
Build-up of the main structure and completion of static test
– Testing of the TAGSAM Engineering Development Unit (EDU) arm through full ranges of motion, including pogo and sample head capture testing
– Start of Sample Return Capsule (SRC) construction, complete with parachute drop testing
– High Gain Antenna
– Build-up of the main Prop tank with welding of prop components for both PIA and PCA plates
– Command & Data Handling EDUs delivered to Spacecraft Test Lab (STL), and flight cards in-test
– Power Drive and Distribution Unit EDU operational, and flight cards in-test
– Flight Software and Simulation cycling cleanly in both STL and SoftSim
– Both STLs fully operational running tests
– 4 of 5 instrument Engineering Models successfully integrated into the STLs (OCAMS, OVIRS, OTES, and REXIS)
– Robust thermal design that’s able to handle an extremely wide range of operational requirements
– Completion of testing with the GN&C LIDAR including 1km free-range checkout
– Start of flight scenario and block development

I’m proud to be part of this exceptional team.  The wonder of the unknown drives us to continually improve.  We’re more than just engineers, scientists, and business folk – we’re explorers, looking to forge new paths and expand our knowledge of the universe.  The lure to do the impossible is what drives us. And we keep coming back to taste that rush – that knowledge that we really have done something so exceptional, we’ll be re-writing the text books and increasing the drive to explore for the future generations to come.  Every one of us is a piece to a giant puzzle for this mission, and we need every piece to be in-place to be successful.  We don’t do this work because it’s easy – we do it because we love to say we do the impossible.

Thanks for taking another moment to reflect, and I hope everyone is able to walk away with an understanding of just how important you are to making this mission a success.


Note from the PI: Thank you Josh for being such an exceptional leader and colleague. I continue to be honored and humbled to work with such a great team!

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