Teledyne Optech has announced that NASA, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and York University have approved the OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA), designed by scientists and engineers from Teledyne Optech and built by MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA). The OLA is now being prepared for installation aboard the Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft.

“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,” says 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.”

Scheduled for launch in September 2016, OSIRIS-REx will visit the asteroid Bennu to survey, land and return a sample of its surface material. 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. Because Bennu is a carbonaceous asteroid that has likely changed very little since the birth of the solar system, scientists hope that this mission will shed light on how the solar system developed.

OLA is a LiDAR instrument equipped with a rapid scanning mirror and two separate lasers. While many earlier space missions have used simple laser rangefinders to measure the distance to their targets, OLA will use its scanning technology to spread its measurements over the entire asteroid, creating a 3D map of Bennu.

The two lasers give OLA extra flexibility for long- and short-range operation. The long-range laser makes measurements from up to 7 kilometers away as OSIRIS-REx approaches Bennu, while the short-range laser fires up to 10,000 times per second to create detailed maps quickly once OSIRIS-REx is in close orbit.

OLA is not the first Teledyne Optech LiDAR to travel into space. Teledyne Optech designed the atmospheric LiDAR aboard NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander, which returned a trove of information about the weather, including proof that it actually snows on the red planet. In an application similar to OSIRIS-REx, Teledyne Optech also created the rendezvous LiDAR for U.S. Air Force Research Lab satellite XSS-11, which successfully tracked other satellites in orbit to assess the possibility of satellite docking and servicing.

About Teledyne Optech

Teledyne Optech is a world leader in high-accuracy LiDAR 3D survey systems, integrated cameras and productivity-enhancing workflows. With operations and staff worldwide, Teledyne Optech offers both standalone and fully integrated LiDAR and camera solutions for airborne mapping, airborne LiDAR bathymetry, mobile mapping, terrestrial laser scanning, mine cavity monitoring and industrial process control, as well as space-proven sensors.