Osiris-Rex Gets its First Asteroid-Inspecting Instrument

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Updated July 1 at 11:40 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The first of five imaging instruments for a NASA asteroid-sampling mission launching next year arrived at spacecraft prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado, for integration, the University of Arizona said in a June 26 press release.

The instrument, the Osiris-rex Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) allows Osiris-Rex, the Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security-Regolith Explorer, to analyze the mineral and chemical composition of its target asteroid and take the asteroid’s temperature.

Arizona State University built OTES at its Tempe, Arizona, campus. Dante Lauretta at the University of Arizona is principal investigator.

Osiris Rex at Asteroid Bennu
Osiris Rex at Asteroid Bennu. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Chris Meaney

Osiris-Rex, the third in NASA’s cost-capped line of principal investigator-led New Frontiers Program, will cost the agency $988.5 million to build and launch. Development costs, which exclude the price of launch and seven years of operations, are capped at $805 million. Launch adds another $183.5 million.

Osiris-Rex is scheduled to lift off in September 2016 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft will arrive at its target, Bennu, in 2018. Once there, Osiris-Rex will reach out with its robotic arm, grab a bit of Bennu and return to Earth with the sample by 2023.

The four Osiris-Rex imaging instruments besides OTES are: the three-camera Osiris-Rex Camera Suite, built by the University of Arizona; a laser altimeter from the Canadian Space Agency; an X-ray spectrometer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard College Observatory; and a visible and infrared spectrometer from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.