Teledyne Provides Critical Imaging Solutions for NASA’s Asteroid Mission

Posted Dec 06, 2018 by

Teledyne Technologies has supplied NASA with critical imaging sensor technologies for the NASA OSIRIS-Rex asteroid rendezvous and sample return mission. Launched from Cape Canaveral in September 2016, OSIRIS-REx is an exciting mission that is visiting a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu and will bring a sample back to Earth for study.

The mission will help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth. The spacecraft arrived at Bennu on December 3, 2018, and will return a sample to Earth in September 2023. OSIRIS-REx is an acronym that incorporates the mission’s major concepts and goals: Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security and Regolith Explorer.

The OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite (OCAMS) consists of three cameras that will image Bennu in visible light, mapping the entire asteroid to help determine where to sample, and recording the sampling event during the critical touch-and-go maneuver. The OCAMS use Teledyne DALSA CCD sensors that were specially designed to be sensitive to the low light levels at Bennu and impervious to the radiation in space. During the 500 days that OSIRIS-REx orbits the asteroid to study the surface and determine the location to sample, the OCAMS will provide context for the other instruments as well as characterization of the surface.

The entire asteroid will be mapped in 3-D with the OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) which is a scanning LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) instrument for measuring the asteroid topography to an accuracy of one centimeter at the sample site, an accuracy that is vital for a successful sampling touch-and-go maneuver. The two LIDAR sensors in the OLA, which were developed by Teledyne Optech, have been optimized for the different aspects of the mission – a high-energy LIDAR for mapping at a distance of 0.6 to 4.7 miles and a low-power LIDAR for distances less than 0.6 miles. The LIDAR will also be used to support navigation and gravity analysis.

The OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) will measure visible and infrared light from Bennu, and is sensitive to wavelengths from the blue (0.4 micron wavelength) to the mid-infrared (4.3 microns). It will measure the spectrum of the asteroid surface by splitting the light into its component wavelengths. The spectral maps of Bennu will enable scientists to determine the mineral and organic material content of the surface, data that is key to determining where to collect the sample that is brought back to Earth. The visible-infrared detector in OVIRS was provided by Teledyne Imaging Sensors and is similar to the detectors used in NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory that accurately monitors the carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere.