Artist’s impression of OSIRIS-REx approaching Bennu. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Teledyne Optech has announced that NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, and York University have approved their OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) for a mission to scan the asteroid Bennu. It is being prepared for installation aboard the Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer spacecraft, also known as OSIRIS-REx.
The mission is scheduled for launch in September, 2016, Teledyne Optech explains in an official statement. “During the approach, OLA will scan Bennu’s surface and create a high-resolution 3D map of the entire asteroid, which will help scientists understand its morphology and select the best spot for OSIRIS-REx to collect its sample.”
Scientists are hoping that Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid that may have remained unchanged since the birth of the solar system, may be able to help us understand how the solar system was formed.
OLA includes a rapid-scanning mirror and two separate lasers, which offer extra flexibility for performing long- and short-range scanning to ensure coverage of the entire asteroid. The long-range laser will scan during OSIRIS-REx’s approach–from up to 7 km away–while the short-range laser will map Bennu once the spacecraft is in orbit.
“It has been five years since the beginning phase of this project, and I’m very proud of the team that delivered this complex instrument on schedule,” said Dr. Paul LaRocque, Teledyne Optech’s Vice President for Special Projects. “NASA and the CSA were pleased with our performance, which comes from Teledyne Optech’s long experience in creating lidar systems for space operations.”