First Instrument Delivered for NASA’s Upcoming Asteroid Sample Return Mission
Bolted to a cradle in a cleanroom at Arizona State University, the OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) is prepared for one of its final tests: to define precisely the instrument's field of view. A red lens cover nestles within the angular sunshade, keeping the optics clean. Its color is designed as a signal to engineers to remove it before launch.
Credits: ASU/Charles Leight
The first of five instruments for a spacecraft that will collect a sample from an asteroid and bring it back to Earth has arrived at Lockheed Martin for installation onto NASA’s Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx).
“The next few months will be very busy as we begin integrating the instruments and prepare for the system-level environmental testing program to begin,” said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
The OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) will conduct surveys to map mineral and chemical abundances and to take the asteroid Bennu’s temperature. OTES is the first such instrument built entirely on the Arizona State University (ASU), Tempe campus.
“OTES, the size of a microwave oven, has spent the last several years being designed, built, tested, and calibrated,” said Philip Christensen, OTES instrument scientist at ASU. "Now, OTES is shipping out for the solar system.”
The instrument will be powered on shortly after the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft begins its two-year trip to Bennu. On arrival at Bennu, OTES will provide spectral data for global maps used to assess potential sample sites. It will take thermal infrared spectral data every two seconds and will be able to detect temperatures with an accuracy of 0.2°F. It will also detect the presence of minerals on the asteroid’s surface.
OSIRIS-REx is the first U.S. mission to fly to, study, and retrieve a pristine sample from an asteroid and return it to Earth for study.
Scheduled to launch in September 2016, the spacecraft will reach its asteroid target in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023.
The mission will allow scientists to investigate the composition of material from the very earliest epochs of solar system history, providing information about the source of organic materials and water on Earth.
“It is a significant milestone to have OSIRIS-REx’s first instrument completed and delivered for integration onto the spacecraft,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “The OTES team has done an excellent job on the instrument and I deeply appreciate their scientific contribution to the mission. OTES plays an essential role in characterizing the asteroid in support of sample-site selection.”
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta is the mission's principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is building the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama manages New Frontiers for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.