Aerospace & Defense

Information Technology


Emerging Capabilities



NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission will study a near-Earth and potentially hazardous asteroid. The Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, spacecraft is scheduled to launch in 2016, rendezvous with asteroid 1999 RQ36, and ultimately bring back samples to Earth. The samples will be the first for a U.S. mission and may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and likely organic molecules that may have seeded life on Earth.

Lockheed Martin will design and build the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, asteroid sampling system and the sample return capsule from its Space Systems Company facilities near Denver. In addition, the company will operate the spacecraft from its Mission Support Area from launch until the asteroid samples are returned.

The asteroid, formerly called 1999 RQ36, is now Bennu. Bennu was chosen as the name of the asteroid as a part of the “Name that Asteroid” contest. The competition was open to students under age 18 from anywhere in the world.

Mission Overview:

  • Launch in September 2016, encountering asteroid 1999 RQ36 in October 2019
  • Study RQ36 for up to 505 days, globally mapping the surface from a distance of 5 km to a distance of 0.7 km
  • Obtain at least 60 g of pristine regolith and a surface material sample
  • Return to Earth in September 2023 in a Stardust-heritage sample return capsule
  • Deliver samples to JSC curation facility for world-wide distribution

Science Objectives:

  • Return and analyze a sample of pristine carbonaceous asteroid regolith in an amount sufficient to study the nature, history, and distribution of its constituent minerals and organic material.
  • Map the global properties, chemistry, and mineralogy of a primitive carbonaceous asteroid to characterize its geologic and dynamic history and provide context for the returned samples.
  • Document the texture, morphology, geochemistry, and spectral properties of the regolith at the sampling site in situ at scales down to the submillimeter.
  • Measure the Yarkovsky effect on a potentially hazardous asteroid and constrain the asteroid properties that contribute to this effect.
  • Characterize the integrated global properties of a primitive carbonaceous asteroid to allow for direct comparison with ground-based telescopic data of the entire asteroid population.