One of two Canadian built lasers on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has failed

Tim Haltigin, Planetary Senior Mission Scientist at the Canadian Space Agency talks about the OSIRIS-REx mission to asteroid Bennu as part of World Space Week. Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

In mid-February the Canadian built OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft did not perform as expected. The mission team now have a better understanding of what happened.

Today the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) provided an update on its website on the status of OLA. The instrument shown below has two parts. An electronics box and a sensor head which has two lasers, a high-energy laser transmitter (HELT) and a low-energy laser transmitter (LELT).

OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) flight unit
The flight unit of OLA, the Canadian Space Agency’s contribution to NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. OLA consists of two parts: an electronics box (left) and the sensor head (right) housing two lasers that fire short laser pulses and a receiver to capture the beam that will bounce back from the surface of the asteroid Bennu. Credit: NASA / Goddard / Debora McCallum.

The mission team has determined that the low-energy laser transmitter has failed and is no longer operable. The good news is the high-energy laser transmitter is still functioning as expected and will now be used for acquiring ranging data.

OLA has already completed its primary mission which included providing the data that helped determine the primary site, Nightingale, for sampling asteroid Bennu.

OSIRIS-REx - Asteroid Bennu sample site finalists.
OSIRIS-REx – Asteroid Bennu sample site finalists. Credit: NASA.

Tomorrow the spacecraft will use OLA’s high-energy laser transmitter (HELT) to provide ranging data to focus PolyCam during a 250-metre flyover of the Nightingale site. The mission is proceeding towards the eventual sample collection and return to Earth.

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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