KEENE — Custom optical components made in Corning Inc.’s Keene manufacturing plant are being used in NASA’s third mission of its New Frontiers program, set to launch in 2016.
The components were delivered in May, according to Corning spokesman Joe Dunning.
Corning created two high-precision mirrors that will be used in the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. The spacecraft will visit a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu, launching in 2016 and reaching the asteroid in 2018.
The mission is to study the asteroid and then return to Earth in 2023.
“What the mirrors do is they will collect an image of light reflected by the asteroid, which helps an instrument called OVIRS that will study the asteroid,” Dunning said.
The tool will help researchers identify areas on the asteroid that may contain water or organic materials, such as certain amino acids, which are the building blocks of life.
The OSIRIS-REx mission is being taken on through a partnership that includes the University of Arizona and NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center.
“Asteroid Bennu is a primitive asteroid, relatively unchanged since the solar system formed over 4.5 billion years ago,” said Dante Lauretta, University of Arizona scientist and principal investigator for the mission, in a statement last week. “OVIRS will search for organics and water, and in doing so will help us select a sample with the highest science value.”
Corning has manufactured for NASA for decades, Dunning said.
“We have supplied window glass for all of NASA manned spacecraft’s beginning with Alan Shepard 1961 Freedom 7 flight when he became the first American in space,” Dunning said. “So we’ve had a long history with NASA.”
Corning has produced mirrors for the Hubble, Gemini, and Subaru telescopes along with providing window glass for all of NASA’s manned spacecraft missions and the International Space Station.