39 Days to Launch – What’s Left to Get Done?

With only 39 days to go until we launch OSIRIS-REx our schedule is packed with activities. Here is a quick rundown of what the team has left to do to get ready to blast this asteroid-sampling robot into space.

8/2: Mission Event Readiness Review – DSN/JPL

The Deep Space Network (DSN) is a critical component for our launch. As soon as the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft separates from the Centaur second stage, we will deploy solar arrays and power-up the telecommunication system to begin talking to the DSN station in Canberra Australia. OSIRIS-REx launch is considered a Level-1 (L1) event. For an L1 event, a formal risk assessment review is held jointly with the mission and a DSN Mission Event Readiness Review (MERR) is held at least 30 days prior to the major event. The purpose of the Mission Event Readiness Review is to assess the operational readiness of the DSN for a critical mission event, and to report the results to the DSN Project Manager.

8/2: Lift and install –Y Solar Array and 8/3: Lift and Install +Y Solar Array

OSIRIS-REx is a solar-powered spacecraft. We have two large solar arrays that are four square meters each, providing over 1200 watts of power when we are in deep space. The arrays are off the spacecraft during most of the ground operations so we can access the components in the interior. Next week they will be installed for the final time in preparation for launch.

8/3: Consent to Fuel Meeting

One of the most hazardous operations ahead of us is filling the spacecraft propellant tank with our hydrazine rocket fuel. Before any such operation takes place, we carefully review the procedures and the roles and responsibilities to make sure it goes off without a hitch. Personnel that are not directly involved in the task (like the Principal Investigator) stay well clear of the area!

8/5: Perform SA Illumination and Sun Sensor Final Phasing

Once the solar arrays (SA) are installed we will perform the final powered-on testing in advance of payload fairing encapsulation. We bring in a bank of light bulbs that act as a solar simulator to stimulate the panels and make sure they are wired properly and generating electricity as needed.

8/8: Ground Readiness Test 6

Even though most of the team is focused on the spacecraft and launch operations, many others are busy making sure that the ground system is in place to support mission operations in flight. We have performed five Ground Readiness Tests to date and are gearing up for the sixth test soon. GRT6 will focus on maneuver planning – the process of designing the burns on our propulsion system to achieve our desired trajectory.

8/8: Booster Erection

OSIRIS-REx is launching on an Atlas V-411 rocket. The Atlas V has two stages – the first stage is the Common Core Booster. This component arrived by barge at KSC last week and is currently stored horizontally. We will lift this booster into the vertical configuration to prepare for stacking the Centaur second stage on top of it.

8/9: Safety & Mission Success Review

The Safety and Mission Success Review (SMSR) is a NASA Headquarters-level, pre-decisional review held for the NASA chief for Safety and Mission Assurance and the NASA chief engineer to independently assess the readiness to proceed with OSIRIS-REx launch.

8/10: Pre-KDP-E Review

At every stage of development, we have had to go to NASA Headquarters for Key Decision Point (KDP) reviews. At these reviews, the agency determines whether or not the mission is ready to progress to the next phase of the development life cycle. Our last such review (KDP-D) gave us the authority to begin assembling the spacecraft. KDP-E is our fifth such review and will provide us with the authority to launch and begin mission operations. Prior to this review on 8/18, we will hold a Pre-KDP Review with the Center Management Council at the Goddard Space Flight Center.

8/11: Second stage mating

Once the Common Core Booster is erected and vertical, we will proceed with integrating the Centaur second stage.

8/15: Contamination Cleaning and Sampling

The primary science objective of OSIRIS-REx is to return pristine samples of carbonaceous asteroid Bennu to better understand the role these objects may have played in the origin of life. Contamination control has been a major effort to ensure this science objective is met. This will be our last chance to clean critical surfaces in support of this activity.

8/15 – 8/16: Perform Final Inspections & Pre-Mate Preps

Our last chance to inspect the spacecraft and prepare for encapsulation in the rocket fairing!

8/17: Pre-Launch Press Conference

By this point the excitement will really be high. I will travel back to Washington DC to participate in a Pre-Launch Press Conference. I will be joined on stage by our Project Manager, our Program Scientists, and our Program Executive. Stay tuned for more information about this event – it will be available for viewing live on NASA TV.

8/18: KDP-E

It is not a coincidence that the Pre-Launch Press Conference occurs the day before KDP-E. On this day, we will return to NASA HQ to present to the Program Management Council and await their decision on authority to launch OSIRIS-REx.

8/20: Media Day @ KSC

On this date, the media will be invited on to the Kennedy Space Center to learn about the mission and interview many of us involved in its development. Expect many great news articles and television reports about the mission as a result.

8/23 – 8/24: Wet Dress Rehearsal

With the Common Core Booster and Centaur second stage integrated together, the Launch Vehicle team will perform a full dress rehearsal of fueling and roll out to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41. This activity will include filling the boosters with real rocket fuel! The only difference from launch day will be the fact that the spacecraft will not be on top of the rocket yet.

8/24 – 8/25: Encapsulation

This is our last chance to see OSIRIS-REx! The spacecraft will be placed inside the two parts of the rocket fairing and sealed up. It will be a bittersweet moment for me – I have become very fond of visiting the spacecraft and seeing the progress towards launch.

8/25: Spacecraft Mate Technical Readiness Review

The final activity for the spacecraft is to lift it to the top of the vertically stacked rocket. Before performing this critical activity, we will review the procedures and roles and responsibilities.

8/29: Transport Spacecraft to Vertical Integration Facility and Mate to Launch Vehicle

A big day! We will lift the spacecraft inside the fairing 150 feet to the top of the awaiting rocket. This will be a nail-biting moment for sure. I will be on hand to witness the event personally.

8/31: All-hands Launch Event Schedule Review

The whole team will gather to go over the schedule for the next eight days.

9/1: Flight Readiness Review, 9/2: System Configuration Review, 9/2: Mission Dress Rehearsal, 9/6: Launch Readiness Review

Our last round of reviews to make sure everything is set for a flawless launch!

9/6: Pre-Launch Press Conference

Watch for news about the mission as we brief the media on the science, spacecraft, launch vehicle, and team that made it all happen.

9/6 – 9/7: Science Team Meeting 11

The OSIRIS-REx Science Team will gather in Orlando, FL to go over the plans for science operations and review the events of the first year in space, which culminates with a flyby of the Earth and Moon in September 2017.

9/6: Team Appreciation Party

This is our chance to thank the team for all of their hard work over the past five years. Hundreds of people have poured their hearts and souls into this project.

9/7: Launch Vehicle Roll out to pad

The complete rocket, with its first stage, second stage, and spacecraft inside the fairing, will roll out to the launch pad and be fueled up for flight.

9/7: Guest Briefings

We will provide briefings to the launch guests and general public throughout the day at the IMAX Theater at Kennedy Space Center.

9/8: Launch!

The big day! If the weather is clear and we don’t have any wayward aircraft or boats in restricted areas, the Atlas V main engine will ignite at 7:05 pm EDT and send OSIRIS-REx on his way to Bennu and Back! If launch is delayed – we can try again on September 9. Our last opportunity to launch this year is October 12 so we have plenty of chances to get off the Earth.

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