NASA announced a new robotic science mission to be launched in 2016 that will retrieve samples from an asteroid. The mission, called Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth. KinetX, Inc., a Tempe, Arizona based private corporation, has partnered with the OSIRIS-REx Principal Investigator, Dr. Michael Drake of the University of Arizona in Tucson, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to be the primary provider of deep space mission design and navigation for the mission. Starting later this year, KinetX will begin participating in the development of the mission and navigation systems that will be implemented and tested by the 2016 launch. After launch, KinetX personnel will perform mission design and navigation operations including trajectory optimization, orbit determination and propulsive maneuver design to guide the spacecraft to a soft touch-down on the asteroid surface in 2020 to collect the sample. KinetX will also provide these services for the return flight to Earth, which begins with departure from the asteroid in 2021 and ends with arrival at Earth in 2023.
KinetX, Inc. is the first commercial entity to provide spacecraft navigation services for NASA interplanetary missions and is currently providing similar mission design and navigation services for two NASA missions: the MESSENGER mission that is currently orbiting the planet Mercury and the New Horizons mission that is on its way to fly by Pluto in 2015.