OSIRIS-REx’s Slow Ride to Launch Pad (Photos)
OSIRIS-REx featured

NASA’s asteroid sampling spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx, sat atop an Atlas V rocket as it was rolled to the launch pad earlier today. The rocket and spacecraft made the slow, but short journey from the Vertical Integration Facility. That’s where OSIRIS-REx was placed on top of the rocket last month.

OSIRIS-REx and Atlas V rocket

The photographer’s perspective is looking out of the Vertical Integration Facility. You can see the launch bad in the background just to the right of OSIRIS-REx.

Launch is set for Thursday (Sept. 8) evening at 7:05 pm ET. But NASA has a little wiggle room if a delay pops up. But any delay better be short. The launch window extends through Friday at 9:00 pm ET.

What happens if the launch is delayed? President and CEO of United Launch Alliance (the Atlas V is there rocket) tweeted an infographic with the answer yesterday.

NASA will have to wait a year if tomorrow’s launch is delayed too long.

Here are more images from this morning’s rollout.

How does OSIRIS-REx get to the launch pad?

It’s a good question. I was wondering the same thing. At first, I thought it was via the Missile Crawler Transporter Facilities (aka crawler-transporters). This massive pair of tracked vehicles was used to carry the space shuttle (and other rockets) to the launch pad.

Here are the huge vehicles carrying the hefty Space Shuttle Discovery.

space shuttle rollout

OSIRIS-REx (and the Atlas V rocket) were rolled to the launch pad this morning on a pair of “trackmobiles.” These “trackmobiles” pull the rocket nearly 2,000 feet along rail tracks. We can just barely make out the tracks in the top photo. Look to the left of the rocket on each side of the road.

A United Launch Alliance rocket rollout from late July shows the “trackmobiles” rail system much better. The following images are courtesy of United Launch Alliance (via SpaceFlightNow).

trackmobiles and rocket

trackmobiles carrying rocket

OSIRIS-REx is expected to begin its journey towards asteroid Bennu tomorrow evening. Live coverage kicks off at 4:30 pm ET on NASA TV.

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