OSIRIS-REx is the third spacecraft in the NASA New Frontiers Program and is planned for launch in 2016. OSIRIS-REx will orbit the near-Earth asteroid (101955) Bennu, characterize it, and return a sample of the asteroid’s regolith back to Earth. The Regolith X-ray Imaging Spectrometer (REXIS) is an instrument on OSIRIS-REx designed and built by students at MIT and Harvard. The purpose of REXIS is to collect and image sun-induced fluorescent X-rays emitted by Bennu, thereby providing spectroscopic information related to the elemental makeup of the asteroid regolith and the distribution of features over its surface. Telescopic reflectance spectra suggest a CI or CM chondrite analog meteorite class for Bennu, where this primitive nature strongly motivates its study. A number of factors, however, will influence the generation, measurement, and interpretation of the X-ray spectra measured by REXIS. These include: the compositional nature and heterogeneity of Bennu, the time-variable solar state, X-ray detector characteristics, and geometric parameters for the observations. In this paper, we will explore how these variables influence the precision to which REXIS can measure Bennu’s surface composition. By modeling the aforementioned factors, we place bounds on the expected performance of REXIS and its ability to ultimately place Bennu in an analog meteorite class.
The OSIRIS-REx Mission was selected under the NASA New Frontiers program and is scheduled for launch in
September of 2016 for a rendezvous with, and collection of a sample from the surface of asteroid Bennu in 2019.
101955 Bennu (previously 1999 RQ36) is an Apollo (near-Earth) asteroid originally discovered by the LINEAR project in 1999 which has since been classified as a potentially hazardous near-Earth object. The REgolith X-Ray Imaging Spectrometer (REXIS) was proposed jointly by MIT and Harvard and was subsequently accepted as a student led instrument for the determination of the elemental composition of the asteroid's surface as well as the surface distribution of select elements through solar induced X-ray fluorescence. REXIS consists of a detector plane that contains 4 X-ray CCDs integrated into a wide field coded aperture telescope with a focal length of
20 em for the detection of regions with enhanced abundance in key elements at 50 m scales. Elemental surface distributions of approximately 50-200 m scales can be detected using the instrument as a simple collimator. An overview of the observation strategy of the REXIS instrument and expected performance are presented here.