Second instrument delivered for OSIRIS-REx mission

July 9, 2015, University of Arizona
The OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) will measure visible and near infrared light from the asteroid Bennu, which can be used to identify water and organic materials. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Bill Hrybyk

An instrument that will explore the surface of a primitive asteroid in search of water and organic materials has arrived at Lockheed Martin for installation onto NASA's Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx).

The OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) instrument measures visible and near infrared light from the Bennu that can be used to identify water and organic materials. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, built the instrument.

"The delivery of OVIRS to the spacecraft means the mission now has the capability to measure the minerals and chemicals at the sample site on Bennu," said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona. "I greatly appreciate the hard work and innovation the OVIRS team demonstrated during the creation of this instrument."

OVIRS, a point spectrometer, will split the light from the asteroid Bennu into its component wavelengths, similar to a prism that splits sunlight into a rainbow, but over a much broader range of wavelengths. Different chemicals have unique spectral signatures by absorbing sunlight and can be identified in the reflected spectrum. The spectra provided by the instrument will help guide sample site selection.

"Through the team's efforts, OVIRS has become a remarkably capable instrument, which we expect to return exciting science from the asteroid Bennu," said Dennis Reuter, OVIRS instrument lead from Goddard.

After thorough testing with the spacecraft on the ground, the will be powered on for check-out shortly after launch, with first science data collected during the Earth gravity assist in September 2017.

In a clean room facility near Denver, Lockheed Martin technicians continue assembling NASA's OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft that will collect samples of an asteroid. Credit: Lockheed Martin

OSIRIS-REx is the first U.S. mission to return samples from an asteroid to Earth for study. The mission is scheduled for launch in September 2016. It will reach its asteroid target in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023.

The spacecraft will travel to a near-Earth asteroid called Bennu and bring at least a 2.1-ounce sample back to Earth for study. The mission will help scientists investigate the composition of the very early solar system and the source of organic materials and water that made their way to Earth, and improve understanding of asteroids that could impact our planet.

"The OVIRS team has met all of their technical requirements," said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at Goddard Space Flight Center. "This is another step in completing the spacecraft and sending it on its way to rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu."

Explore further: OSIRIS-REx team prepares for next step in NASA's asteroid sample return mission

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Study suggests trees are crucial to the future of our cities

March 25, 2019

The shade of a single tree can provide welcome relief from the hot summer sun. But when that single tree is part of a small forest, it creates a profound cooling effect. According to a study published today in the Proceedings ...

Matter waves and quantum splinters

March 25, 2019

Physicists in the United States, Austria and Brazil have shown that shaking ultracold Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) can cause them to either divide into uniform segments or shatter into unpredictable splinters, depending ...

Apple pivot led by star-packed video service

March 25, 2019

With Hollywood stars galore, Apple unveiled its streaming video plans Monday along with news and game subscription offerings as part of an effort to shift its focus to digital content and services to break free of its reliance ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.