Discovering the Origins of the Solar System
Lockheed Martin designed and built the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, asteroid sampling system and sample return capsule at our facilities near Denver.
Launch: Sept. 8, 2016
Earth Flyby: September 2017
Asteroid Operations: Begin August 2018
Sample Site Downselection: December 2019
Touch-And-Go Sample Collection: October 2020
Asteroid Departure Maneuver: May 2021
Sample Return to Earth: September 2023
The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer,
or OSIRIS-REx, launched on Sept. 8, 2016.
The spacecraft will rendezvous with asteroid Bennu, conduct a two-year detailed survey of Bennu from orbit, and briefly touch the asteroid's surface to collect a dirt sample to bring home to Earth.
The Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) device will act as a “reverse vacuum,” blowing compressed nitrogen gas to stir up asteroid dirt (aka regolith) from Bennu and collecting it in a ring-shaped canister.
Bennu is a B-type asteroid with a ~500 meter diameter. It completes an orbit around the Sun every 436.604 days (1.2 years) and every 6 years comes very close to Earth, within 0.002 AU.
These close encounters give Bennu a high probability of impacting Earth in the late 22nd century. Bennu’s size, primitive composition, and potentially hazardous orbit make it one of the most fascinating and accessible Near Earth Objects … and the ideal OSIRIS-REx target asteroid.
The sample site — or area where the TAGSAM will reach out to Bennu's surface to grab a regolith sample — has been identified as Nightingale, with Osprey as a backup option. The sites were selected based on four key areas: safety, sampleability, deliverability, and science value.
Natural Feature Tracking
Did you know?
TAGSAM aims to collect between 60 and 2,000 grams (2.1 – 70 ounces) of material.
The Natural Feature Tracking (NFT) software system on OSIRIS-REx uses optical navigation to identify landmarks on Bennu, such as craters or boulders, and determine if the spacecraft is on the right trajectory.
Because NFT tracks the spacecraft's position in three dimensions, it's critical to ensuring OSIRIS-REx can navigate the uber-precise tricks and twirls needed to safely retrieve an asteroid sample from a small site.
Four potential tag site options are pictured here. NFT will help narrow down which site is best suited for the mission.
Photo courtesy of NASA.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft draws from a strong heritage of Lockheed Martin’s previous planetary spacecraft, while incorporating innovative technologies that make this sample return mission possible.
When you look at OSIRIS-REx, its structures and subsystems can be traced back to MAVEN, Juno and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. And the sample return capsule comes directly from the Stardust comet sample return mission!
Over the seven year mission, OSIRIS-REx will travel to an asteroid, map the surface, collect a sample and send it back to Earth in 2023.
A burst of nitrogen gas and a vacuum head will collect more than 60 grams of sample from Bennu.
Traveling to Bennu because of the composition, size and proximity to Earth. Bennu is a rare B-type asteroid which is expected to have organic compounds and water-bearing minerals like clays.
Natural Feature Tracking
E X P L O R E
Photo credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona
“We’ve run over 800 tests with the Lockheed Martin developed TAGSAM,” said Beau Bierhaus, TAGSAM lead scientist and science co-investigator on OSIRIS-REx. ”We’ll take subsequent, low-altitude observations at the sample site in 2020 to confirm the conclusions we’ve reached at this point.”
Video credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona
The sample will be the first for a U.S. mission. Scientists hope to use it to learn about the early formation of our solar system and discover clues to the origins of life.
Watch a replay of our recent webinar here: