CENTENNIAL, Colo., Aug. 5, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- NASA's Launch Services Program announced today that it selected United Launch Alliance's (ULA's) proven Atlas V vehicle to launch the Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS REx) mission, which will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth.
"We are honored that NASA has selected ULA to launch this critical mission," said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president of Atlas and Delta Programs. "NASA has trusted our highly reliable Atlas V vehicle to launch missions including Pluto New Horizons, Juno and Mars Science Lab, and now OSIRIS-REx."
The mission is scheduled to launch in 2016 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This mission will launch aboard an Atlas V 411 Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV), which includes a 4-meter diameter payload fairing and one solid rocket motor.
With 39 successful missions spanning a decade of operational service, the commercially developed Atlas V is uniquely qualified to provide launch services for these high-value NASA New Frontier Missions," said Sponnick. "Atlas V is currently the only launch vehicle certified by NASA to fly the nation's most complex exploration missions."
The mission will help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth. Following launch, the spacecraft will reach its asteroid target in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023.
ULA program management, engineering, test and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo. Manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located at Decatur, Ala., and Harlingen, Texas. Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
For more information on ULA, visit the ULA website at www.ulalaunch.com, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321). Join the conversation at www.facebook.com/ulalaunch and twitter.com/ulalaunch.
SOURCE United Launch Alliance