CSA Laser Launches Aboard NASA OSIRIS-REx
LONGUEIL, Quebec, Sept. 13, 2016 — A laser altimeter from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has been launched on board of NASA's OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) spacecraft, en route to the Bennu asteroid.
The instrument was built for CSA by MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. and Optech. In exchange for providing the laser altimeter, CSA will receive a portion of the returned asteroid sample for study.
The OSIRIS-REx launch occurred at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 7:05 p.m. on Sept. 8. Funded by the CSA, the OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) is the most sophisticated lidar system ever launched to an asteroid, containing approximately 4,000 mechanical parts and 3,000 electrical parts, and using less power than a 75-W light bulb.
The OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) will create 3D maps of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, aiding in the selection of a sample collection site. The advanced lidar system will provide mission scientists with fundamental data on the asteroid's shape, topography, surface processes and evolution. An accurate shape model will also be an important tool for navigators as they maneuver the spacecraft around the 500-m-wide asteroid. Canada will own 4 percent of the returned sample, which will be curated and studied.
The OSIRIS-REx mission will investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth. Observations using telescopes have revealed Bennu to be rich in carbon, unusually dark in color and unlike any samples in meteorite collections. Asteroids like Bennu are the direct remnants of the original building blocks of the terrestrial planets in our solar system.
It will take two years for the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to reach Bennu. The sample will return to Earth in 2023.
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