Nasa’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) has successfully collected dust and pebbles from the surface of asteroid Bennu. 

OSIRIS-REx’s Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) successfully touched and fired one of its nitrogen gas canisters on the asteroid surface, collecting material through a filter in the round sampler head.

Currently located more than 200 million miles from Earth, the asteroid will offer scientists with information on how planets were formed and life began, as well as improve the understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth.

The mission team will command the spacecraft to commence stowing the sample to begin its journey back to Earth in March 2021, if the sample collection event called, ‘Touch-And-Go’ (TAG), provides enough sample.

Telemetry data from the spacecraft reveals the TAG event was executed as expected. However, the OSIRIS-REx team will take about a week to confirm the amount of sample collected.

The cargo is expected for delivery to Earth in 2023.

Nasa Washington headquarters Science Mission Directorate associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said: “This was an incredible feat – and today, we’ve advanced both science and engineering and our prospects for future missions to study these mysterious ancient storytellers of the solar system.

“A piece of primordial rock that has witnessed our solar system’s entire history may now be ready to come home for generations of scientific discovery, and we can’t wait to see what comes next.”

As part of this mission, rockets and missile propulsion system provider Aerojet Rocketdyne powered the spacecraft’s propulsion system with 28 engines and industrial conglomerate Teledyne Technologies provided the digital ‘eyes’ for the mission.

In a separate development, launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services provider Firefly Aerospace has successfully completed the acceptance test of the first stage of its Alpha launch vehicle for its inaugural flight later this year.

Firefly signed a launch services agreement (LSA) with Spire Global (Spire) for the launch of the Lemur spacecraft on the Alpha launch vehicle over the contract period.