PTFE from Berghof goes into space with the OSIRIS-REx mission

PTFE from Berghof goes into space with the OSIRIS-REx mission

October 19, 2020

The US space agency found Berghof’s black Optical PTFE to be the ideal material to protect the sensitive measuring instruments of its satellite from interferences.

NASA wants to send a satellite to the surface of asteroid “Bennu” in the OSIRIS-REx mission in order to explore it and take material samples. For this, the space vehicle is equipped with highly complex and accordingly sensitive optical measuring instruments (OCAMS).

In order to minimize interferences from direct sunlight or reflected scattered light when taking pictures, the NASA engineers went in search of a material that would absorb as much light as possible while reducing its thermal effects.

The path to validation

The developers shortlisted the optical PTFE from Berghof Fluoroplastics very early on due to its unique bidirectional reflection behaviour. The first examinations showed that the version with the lowest reflectivity would be particularly suitable for the requirements of this mission. In order to be validated as “space flight material”, however, it had to go through further comprehensive tests, among others regarding long-term resilience under vacuum in various thermal scenarios, abrasion behaviour, electrical conductivity and influences of high-energy particle radiation.

“The BRDF of black PTFE is fantastic. It meets our mission requirements.”

NASA Engineering

In the end, black Optical PTFE by Berghof Fluoroplastics convinced the NASA developers and engineers. Applied on a large part of the surface of the optical instruments and other surface parts of the satellite, it now enables the measuring systems to work without interferences so that the satellite will be able to land safely on the asteroid.

The technical publications on the validation process and the use of black Optical PTFE can be found on the NASA Technical Report Server (NTAS):

Just how impressive the images would be, became apparent even before the actual mission goal was reached, when the optical instruments were able to take the first joint photo of the Earth and Moon together. The result can be seen here:

OSIRIS-REx Mission Overview

The most important milestones

Since the launch of the satellite in 2016, NASA has regularly published updates on the mission, which runs until 2023, on this page:

The first milestone of the mission: In August 2018, the satellite caught up with the asteroid "Bennu" in its orbit and began surveying it.

Since then, the satellite has not left the side from "Bennu" and is orbiting it. For several months, the focus was on selecting the optimal landing site for the "Touch-And-Go (TAG)" maneuver. Four regions on "Bennu" had been shortlisted for this: "Sandpiper", "Osprey", Kingfisher" and "Nightingale".

In December 2019, NASA finally decided on the "Nightingale" area as landing zone, which is located in a crater in the very north of "Bennu".

2020 Timeline


The next milestone followed in April 2020: the system and the team passed the rehearsal for the mission's highlight, the "Touch-And-Go (TAG)" maneuver, which was scheduled for August 2020, successfully.

During the flight simulation, OSIRIS-REx approached for the first time at only 65 meters distance from the asteroid's surface. The following images show the extended TAGSAM (Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism), which is used for regolith sampling and is coated with layers of black Optical PTFE from Berghof.


By that time everything had gone according to plan - until an earthly event disrupted the mission schedule: Due to the corona pandemic and its manifold effects, NASA had to postpone the landing of the satellite on the asteroid's surface until October 2020.

But now, on October 20, the time has come - and thanks to live broadcast from NASA, you can join in live at this historic event, as the people at that time during the moon landing on July 20, 1969.

Here you can follow the landing of the "OSIRIS-REx" satellite in the region "Nightingale" on the asteroid "Bennu" in the live stream from 11 pm Central European Time (5:00 p.m. EDT):

You should not miss this!

Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona; University of Arizona/Symeon Platts