FalconSAT-6, a satellite designed and built by Air Force Academy cadets, is set to launch into space aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, today.
Meanwhile, after a two-year chase, a NASA spacecraft arrived Monday at the ancient asteroid Bennu, its first visitor in billions of years.
The robotic explorer Osiris-Rex, right on cue, pulled within 12 miles (19 kilometers) of the diamond-shaped space rock. It will get even closer in the days ahead and actually go into orbit around Bennu (BEN-oo) on Dec. 31. No spacecraft has ever orbited such a small cosmic body.
Flight controllers applauded and exchanged high-fives once confirmation came through — exactly one week after NASA landed a spacecraft on Mars.
"Relieved, proud, and anxious to start exploring!" tweeted lead scientist Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona.
With Bennu more than 80 million miles (130 million kilometers) away, it took seven minutes for word to get from the spacecraft to flight controllers at Lockheed Martin in Littleton, Colorado. The company built the spacecraft there.
Bennu is estimated to just over 1,600 feet (500 meters) across. Researchers will provide a more precise description at a scientific meeting next Monday in Washington.