Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: Us space agency NASA's asteroid mission is on track and scheduled to launch on September 8 despite the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explosion at the neighbouring Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft sits fine atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 at Cape Canaveral's Space Launch Complex 41 - less than two km away where the Falcon 9 exploded on Thursday in a routine test firing ahead of a planned satellite launch into space.
The satellite launch was to expand Facebook's presence in Africa by beaming internet from the sky. The Amos-6 satellite was to become the first in the social networking giant's project to spread internet to the developing world.
"The launch for NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission remains on track for September 8. Initial assessments indicate the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and OSIRIS-REx spacecraft are healthy and secure at Space Launch Complex-41, which is 1.1 miles from SpaceX's launch pad where the incident occurred," NASA said in a statement on Friday.
"We remain confident in our commercial partners and firmly stand behind the successful 21st century launch complex that NASA, other federal agencies, and US commercial companies are building on Florida's Space Coast," it added.
The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft will travel to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and bring a sample back to Earth for intensive study.
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.
The 2,110-kg fully-fuelled spacecraft will launch aboard an Atlas V 411 rocket during a 34-day launch period that begins on September 8, and reach its asteroid target in 2018.
"Today's incident -- while it was not a NASA launch -- is a reminder that spaceflight is an incredible challenge, but our partners learn from each success and setback," NASA added.
Nobody is thought to have been hurt in the explosion.
The explosion, however, is a setback for SpaceX. The California-based company, led by billionaire Elon Musk, had been ramping up with frequent launches to make up for a backlog created by a launch accident in June 2015.
(With IANS inputs)