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SpaceX Failed Launch Will Not Affect Asteroid Mission, According to NASA

Sep 05, 2016 04:55 AM EDT
NASA Spacecraft Lifts Off For Historic Mission To Pluto
NASA said the launch of the OSIRIS-Rex mission to the asteroid Bennu would still push through, despite the recent explosion that destroyed a SpaceX Falcon 9 and Facebook’s satellite.
(Photo : Matt Stroshane/Getty Images)

NASA announced that the OSIRIS-Rex mission will launch on schedule on Sept. 8, unaffected by the recent explosion of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at a neighboring launch pad.

The OSIRIS-Rex (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer) spacecraft was sitting atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral's Space Launch Complex 41 when the Falcon 9 exploded on Thursday at the neighboring Kennedy Space Center, which is less than two km away. The announcement came following concerns that the explosion might have damaged the Atlas V rocket carrying the asteroid-hunting spacecraft.

"We remain confident in our commercial partners and firmly stand behind the successful 21st century launch complex that NASA, other federal agencies, and U.S. commercial companies are building on Florida's Space Coast," NASA said in a press release via a Facebook post. "Initial assessments indicate the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and OSIRIS-REx spacecraft are healthy and secure in the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41."

NASA is unable to confirm if the explosion will affect missions to the International Space Station (ISS). According to NASA representatives, the situation at Cape Canaveral is under evaluation, and that "it's too early to know whether the incident will affect the schedule for upcoming NASA-related SpaceX launches to the International Space Station."

The $800 million OSIRIS-Rex mission is scheduled to launch at 7:05 pm Eastern time on Sept. 8. The spacecraft will collect asteroid components from Bennu when it lands by 2018. The capsule of the spacecraft will return to Earth by 2023 carrying the pristine samples. The samples will enable scientists to study the asteroid's composition and look for traces of organic compounds that might have led to the formation of life on Earth.

The explosion of the Falcon 9 rocket happened on Sept. 1 during a routine test firing. According to reports, the explosion happened during the propellant loading of the vehicle.

The SpaceX rocket was set to launch on Sept. 3, carrying the Amos-6 communications satellite, the first satellite commissioned by Facebook as part of the company's plan to beam Internet access to poorly connected areas in sub-Saharan Africa.

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