Space technology Current Affairs - 2019

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NASA’s spacecraft OSIRIS-REx arrives at its targeted asteroid Bennu after 2-year journey

NASA’s first-ever OSIRIS-REx mission designed to visit asteroid and return sample of its dust back to Earth reached its destination, Bennu, two years after its launch. It will use its suite of five science instruments to study asteroid for the next year and a half.

OSIRIS-Rex

OSIRIS-Rex stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer. It was launched in September 2016 for studying 101955 Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid. It is NASA’s first asteroid sampling mission i.e. it will survey surface, collect sample and deliver it safely back to Earth. It will regularly observe area around the asteroid to search for dust plumes and natural satellites and study its light and spectral properties. It will return to Earth after collecting some of its gravels by 2023. It will capture 60 grams dirt and debris from surface of asteroid using its robotic arm without landing i.e. by hovering like hummingbird stirred up by nitrogen gas thrusters and then to Earth for detailed analysis of the collected samples.

Bennu

Bennu is near-Earth carbonaceous asteroid about the size of a small mountain in the Apollo group. It was discovered in September 1999 by the LINEAR Project. It orbits close to Earth’s path around the Sun. It is one of the oldest asteroids known to NASA. It is carbon-rich asteroid and believed to be the type of asteroids that may have chemical building blocks of life, along with lots of water. So, analysis of returned sample from it could help to reveal key insights about early solar system and the origin of life on Earth. It is potentially hazardous asteroid and there is very slight chance it could strike into Earth in the late 22nd century.

Special Note

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx is not world’s first asteroid sampling mission. This distinction is held by Japanese space agency JAXA. It had proved world’s first sample collection from asteroid after its Hayabusa spacecraft crash-landed into the surface of its target asteroid and managed to return a few micrograms of material in 2010.

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SpaceX successfully launches 64 small satellites using reusable Falcon 9 rocket

Elon Musk-led SpaceX has successfully launched 64 small satellites into low Earth orbit onboard of its reusable and preflown Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. This has set new record in United States of launching satellites in single go. It was third voyage of Falcon 9 rocket, marking another milestone in SpaceX’s cost-cutting reusable rocket technology.

About Satellites

The 64 small satellites included 49 CubeSats and 15 micro-satellites belonging to 34 different clients including public, private and university sources from 17 different countries across the world including South Korea, France and Kazakhstan. The microsatellites weighed few dozen kilograms and CubeSats weighed even smaller. Among launched satellites, one was sculpture called “Orbital Reflector” by artist Trevor Paglen, sent by Nevada Museum of Art and it was not scientific missions.

Note

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) holds record for the most satellite launch in single flight. It had launched 104 satellites in one go using Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C37) rocket.

Space X

It is private US space agency. It was founded by Elon Musk on May 6, 2002 who is its current CEO of Space X. Its main purpose for its establishment was to reduce cost of space transport and establish human habitation on Mars house. Space X has developed series of Falcon Rockets. To reduce cost of internal transport, the space company has created re-usable rockets. Majority of these rockets are also used in other launches.

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