PHOENIX, Sept. 9, 2016 – Honeywell (NYSE: HON) is working with Lockheed Martin, NASA and the University of Arizona to support the OSIRIS-REx mission to collect samples from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, using a robotic spacecraft that launched Sept. 8. Honeywell supplied Reaction Wheel Assemblies and Miniature Inertial Measurement Units to precisely point and stabilize the spacecraft. These technologies help make the spacecraft steadier and provide more accurate routing, making them critical to mission success.
Once launched, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will head to Bennu to study it in depth and to gather between 60 and 2,000 grams of materials from the asteroid’s surface. Once this is complete, OSIRIS-REx will remain in the asteroid’s orbit for about a year to collect additional data before returning to Earth in 2023. The seven-year journey would not be possible without Honeywell’s Miniature Inertial Measurement Unit (MIMU) and its Reaction Wheel Assemblies (RWAs) to control and orient the spacecraft. These technologies will help ensure that OSIRIS-REx is on the right trajectory as it travels to and from Bennu, and allow for more control and precision when collecting samples from the asteroid.
“With the continuous improvements in technology that enhance our ability to study the universe, there is an increasing need for reliable and accurate solutions to navigate through space. Honeywell is excited to have its technologies onboard the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and to have navigated many other successful missions in the past,” said Carey Smith, president, Defense and Space, Honeywell Aerospace. “We are proud to continue our leadership in the space industry and look forward to supporting future missions to learn more about our solar system and beyond.”
Mission-Critical Success in Space
Operating a vehicle in space can be a challenge. Dealing with factors such as gravity, space debris and the length of time that missions take requires accurate and reliable technology. Honeywell has a legacy of providing efficient, reliable and accurate navigation systems across commercial and military applications that operate on Earth or in space. For the OSIRIS-REx mission, Honeywell will provide:
- Honeywell’s Miniature Inertial Measurement Unit: Weighing approximately 10 pounds, Honeywell’s MIMU is a small but mighty inertial measurement unit that will help flight engineers control and stabilize the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft while it carries out mission-critical tasks. The MIMU will help ensure that the spacecraft arrives at Bennu and returns to Earth successfully by keeping it on the correct flight path. Honeywell’s MIMU is installed on commercial and military platforms, and has been successfully launched into space on more than 300 spacecraft.
- Honeywell’s Reaction Wheel Assemblies: These mechanical flywheels control the orientation of a spacecraft, making it smoother and easier to maneuver in space. There are four RWAs onboard the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, each weighing about 24 pounds, that will precisely point and stabilize the spacecraft while it recovers samples from the surface of Bennu. Honeywell has been a leader in RWA technology for over 40 years, during which time the systems have accumulated over 127 million orbit hours of operation with 100 percent mission success.
Honeywell has supported many NASA missions in the past, including the Juno mission to Jupiter, the New Horizons space probe mission to Pluto and the Orion program. This is the first time that NASA has charted a trip to asteroid Bennu. The samples obtained will be uncontaminated by Earth’s atmosphere, allowing scientists to gain a fuller picture of the ancient materials present on Bennu. Scientists think that the asteroid is carbon-rich and hope to find organic molecules like those that may have led to the origin of life on Earth and elsewhere.
- Read more about the OSIRIS-REx mission
- Learn more about Honeywell’s inertial measurement units
- Read more about Honeywell Aerospace on the Follow The Aero blog
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