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Emily LakdawallaMay 23, 2016

OSIRIS-REx shipped to Florida for September launch

OSIRIS-REx's long journey to an asteroid has begun. The first step was a small and quick one, relatively speaking: the spacecraft departed Colorado on Friday, travelling aboard an Air Force C-17 to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center. Now safely in a clean room in Florida, it'll undergo final assembly, testing, and fueling before being encapsulated in a rocket fairing and then stacked atop an Atlas V rocket. The launch period opens on September 8 and closes on October 12.

The OSIRIS-REx Twitter account couldn't resist a Colorado-specific joke upon its departure Friday, as a consequence of which I am writing the rest of this blog entry with John Denver songs running through my brain.

All my bags are packed. I'm ready to go. I'm standing here outside @LockheedMartin's door... 🎶 #ShipToCape pic.twitter.com/afV0hkzgH7

— OSIRIS-REx (@OSIRISREx) May 20, 2016

Here's a bit of a photo album of the journey. I can't imagine how terrifying it is to let your precious spacecraft take a trip of any length on a truck on a freeway, but of course this kind of journey happens at least once for every spacecraft. (Let us not speak of the effects of Galileo's multiple truck journeys.)

OSIRIS-REx on the road

Lockheed Martin

OSIRIS-REx on the road
The crated spacecraft travels on the freeway to Buckley Air Force Base near Denver for its flight to Florida on May 20, 2016.
C-17 Globemaster

Lockheed Martin

C-17 Globemaster
OSIRIS-REx's ride awaits at Buckley Air Force Base.
Loading OSIRIS-REx

Lockheed Martin

Loading OSIRIS-REx
In a shipping crate, OSIRIS-REx is loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster for its flight to Florida on May 20, 2016.
OSIRIS-REx in the belly of the C-17

Lockheed Martin

OSIRIS-REx in the belly of the C-17
Unloading OSIRIS-REx

Lockheed Martin

Unloading OSIRIS-REx
In the late evening of May 20, 2016, the crated spacecraft is unloaded from the C-17 cargo plane that carried it to Kennedy Space Center.

The day after shipping it, they unboxed the spacecraft.

Whew! It was warm in there. #ShipToCape pic.twitter.com/GJPXkUciMk

— OSIRIS-REx (@OSIRISREx) May 21, 2016

Great to see you, @NASAKennedy! This is a great clean room you've got for me. #ShipToCape pic.twitter.com/81WBRLNVZv

— OSIRIS-REx (@OSIRISREx) May 21, 2016
OSIRIS-REx at Kennedy Space Center for final assembly

Lockheed Martin

OSIRIS-REx at Kennedy Space Center for final assembly
NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is revealed after its protective cover is removed inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 21, 2016.

It's a relief to have that journey over. The scariest part, the launch, is just three months away. But OSIRIS-REx has a more complicated journey ahead of it than most, needing to travel to an asteroid, touch down on it, depart, and then send its sample return capsule to a safe landing. I'll be following it every step of the way!

Read more: pretty pictures, mission status, OSIRIS-REx, spacecraft

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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Emily Lakdwalla
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