The first of five instruments for a spacecraft that will collect a sample from an asteroid and bring it back to Earth has arrived at Lockheed Martin for installation onto NASA’s Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx). The Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) will conduct surveys to map mineral and chemical abundances and to take the asteroid Bennu’s temperature.

Bolted to a cradle, the OSIRIS-REx TES is prepared for testing. A red lens cover nestles within the angular sunshade, keeping the optics clean. (ASU/Charles Leight)

Scheduled to launch in September 2016, the spacecraft will reach its asteroid target in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023. Testing included placing OTES in a vacuum chamber space simulation system at Arizona State University, where it was subjected to the same conditions it will experience during the mission. Aerospace engineers call this process “shake and bake” because it reproduces the vibrations of a rocket launch as well as the extremes of heat and cold that OTES must survive to do its job.