On Nov. 14, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx artificial satellite stretched its robotic sampling arm for the primary time in area. The arm, a lot of formally referred to as the parlous Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), is vital to the artificial satellite achieving the first goal of the mission: returning a sample from asteroid Bennu in 2023.

As planned, engineers at Lockheed Martin commanded the artificial satellite to maneuver the arm through its full vary of motion – flexing its shoulder, elbow, and articulatio radiocarpea “joints.” This long-awaited stretch, that was confirmed by measuring information and imagination captured by the spacecraft’s SamCam camera, demonstrates that the TAGSAM head is prepared to gather a sample of loose dirt and rock (called regolith) from Bennu’s surface.

Years of innovation

Lockheed Martin engineers spent quite a decade planning, building, and testing TAGSAM, which has associate degree 11-foot (3.35-meter) arm with 3 articulating joints, a spherical sampler head at the tip of the arm that resembles the air cleaner in a very automobile, and 3 bottles of aggressive N gas.

This check readying was a rehearsal for a date in mid-2020 once the artificial satellite can unfold the TAGSAM arm once more, slowly descend to Bennu’s surface, and shortly bit the asteroid with the sampler head. A burst of N gas can fire up regolith on the asteroid’s surface, which is able to be caught within the TAGSAM head.

The TAGSAM mechanism was designed for the key challenge distinctive to the OSIRIS-REx mission: assembling a sample from the tiniest planetary body ever to be orbited by a artificial satellite.

A month of testing

The evolution of the TAGSAM arm was the newest and most vital step in a very series of tests and check-outs of the spacecraft’s sampling system, that began in Gregorian calendar month once OSIRIS-REx jettisoned the quilt that protected the TAGSAM head throughout launch and therefore the mission’s departing cruise section.

Shortly before the quilt ejection, and once more the day once, OSIRIS-REx performed 2 spins referred to as Sample Mass Measurements. By comparison the spacecraft’s mechanical phenomenon properties throughout these before-and-after spins, the team confirmed that the two.67-pound (1.21-kilogram) cowl was with success ejected on Gregorian calendar month. 17.

A week later, on Oct. 25, the Frangibolts holding the TAGSAM arm in situ laid-off with success, emotional the arm and permitting the team to maneuver it into a lay position simply outside its protecting housing. once resting during this position for a number of weeks, the arm was absolutely deployed into its sampling position, its joints were tested, and pictures were captured with SamCam.

OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to reach Bennu on Dec. 3. it’ll pay nearly one year measuring the asteroid with 5 scientific instruments so the mission team will choose a location that’s safe and scientifically fascinating to gather the sample.