I just noticed when reading about comet 67P that there were OSIRIS images taken by the OSIRIS camera on the Rosetta spacecraft. Since those six letters also dominate the name of the spacecraft OSIRIS-REx, I was wondering if there is a backstory here, or if it is only a coincidence or acronym collision.

edit 1: After I initially posted I noticed that there is a new space related video game also called OSIRIS which just won Best Survival game at PAX West 2016. Looks a tiny bit realistic perhaps but since I haven't played any space games since Asteroids (the real one, in an arcade, using quarters) I have no idea.

edit 2: Aboard the upcoming CRS-12 launch is the Penn State University cubest OSIRIS-3U (also here and here)

edit 3: Phys.org's article Astronomers discover S0-2 star is single and ready for big Einstein test describes W. M. Keck Observatory's OH-Suppressing Infrared Imaging Spectrograph (OSIRIS) and Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics.

edit 4: OSIRIS (Optical Space Infrared Downlink System) highly compact optical communication payloads for small spacecrafts in a LEO 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

  • $\begingroup$ For info the Rosetta probe and its lander Philae are named after Egyptian influences. (Rosetta is after the Rosetta Stone for example.) So they clearly had an Egyptian theme in mind for that mission, and eventually in their proposed names for the geographical areas of comet 67P. (I don't know about the other mission OSIRIS-Rex though.) $\endgroup$
    – Andy
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ tucson.com/business/… $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 2:45

2 Answers 2

  • Rosetta: Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System
  • OSIRIS-REx: Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer

I haven't found an obvious connection, I'd say it's a coincidence.

The origin of the name OSIRIS-REx:

Michael Drake, the original principal investigator on OSIRIS-REx, first asked me to help him develop the mission concept in 2004. My job was to define and implement the science investigation for the mission. I started jotting down the big ideas that an asteroid sample return mission would go after. My first list included the words Origins, Spectroscopy, Resources, and Security – these were the themes that I would build the mission science plan around. I realized right away that I had almost spelled out Osiris – all that were needed were a couple of vowels

  • $\begingroup$ I've added the latest addition, OSIRIS-3U to the list. This is just a heads-up, I don't think you need to modify your answer. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 10:19
  • $\begingroup$ another heads-up only, I've added a small-sat subsystem for optical communications as well. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 10:39

Just speculating here, but Osiris in an Egyptian myth ascended a ladder into the heavens. So it makes sense to name a probe (or a component thereof) after an "astronaut" from Egyptian mythology. Why Osiris as opposed to a host of other potential namesakes? That probably comes down to what letters they had available to make an acronym with.

There are project-specific reasons for going with Egyptian tradition, however:

  • Rosetta and its lander Philae are named after Egyptian artifacts.
  • OSIRIS-REx was sent to explore 101955 Bennu, which is named for an Egyptian mythological bird (a firebird).
  • Osiris: New Dawn was a mission sent to create a new beginning for civilization in another planetary system, so the name Osiris was selected because of the god's association with rebirth.
  • OSIRIS-3U was being launched from the ISS, which some pronounce "Isis" (the name of the god Osiris's wife).
  • The OSIRIS spectrograph is designed to work with the Keck Adaptive Optics System (KAOS). The god Osiris's rival was the god of chaos, Set.
  • The OSIRIS optical system is on the BIROS satellite which is part of the FireBird constellation (see Bennu above).

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