Hera mission is part of an international cooperation aimed at testing whether the orbit of an asteroid can be shifted by smashing into it.
Credit: ESA

 

The European Space Agency is working with NASA on a double-spacecraft mission – a test of how to deflect an asteroid.

Called Hera, named for the Greek goddess of marriage, this candidate mission is up for consideration during the Agency’s Council of Ministers at European Level in late 2019.

 

Dart

In 2022, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft will first perform a kinetic impact on the smaller of the two bodies of the Didymos binary near-Earth asteroids. Then Hera will follow-up with a detailed post-impact survey that will turn this grand-scale experiment into a well-understood and repeatable planetary defense technique.

These objects will come a comparatively close 7 million miles (11 million kilometers) to Earth in 2022.

Didymoon

The 800-meter diameter Didymos is orbited by a 170-meter “moonlet” informally called “Didymoon.” That smaller object is more typical of the size of asteroids that could pose a more common hazard to Earth.

Hera will also gather crucial scientific data on asteroids as a whole by carefully studying the exterior and interior properties of both bodies in the system.

The ESA-provided spacecraft will also host two 6-unit cubesats that will be deployed near Didymos to perform, for the first time ever, multi-point measurements in a “mother-daughter” configuration.

Close-proximity operations

A novel intersatellite link will be used to establish a flexible communications network supporting the close-proximity operations in very low-gravity conditions, a crucial step for future exploration activities around small bodies.

For a video of this asteroid deflection mission, go to:

http://www.esa.int/spaceinvideos/Videos/2018/06/Hera_mission2

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