Engineers told how the Hera mission will communicate with the Earth

(ORDO NEWS) — The image above shows the antenna that will transmit to Earth images of the asteroid Dimorph taken as part of the upcoming ESA Hera mission.

The high-gain antenna of the Hera mission has been tested at the Compact Antenna Test Range (CATR), which is part of the ESTEC technical center in the Netherlands.

“The high gain antenna is really an important part of our mission – it will be our only means of receiving data and sending commands at the volume we need, and the low gain antenna is a backup for low data rate emergency communications,” explains the mission engineer. “Hera” Victoria Isa.

Hera Mission Systems Engineer Paolo Concari adds: “Combined with an innovative deep space transponder, this antenna will also perform scientific functions.

The Doppler shift of the signals due to the subtle changes in Hera’s speed as the spacecraft orbits Dimorph will be used to determine the asteroid’s mass and shape.

But for this radio science experiment to work well, the antenna signal must remain stable over time. This means that the antenna itself must maintain its geometric shape very accurately.”

The antenna diameter is 1.13 meters, and the total weight is 7.5 kg. Its reflector is made of carbon fiber, which makes it very stable and resistant to temperature changes and general environmental influences.

The antenna will have to transmit and receive signals at a distance of more than 400 million kilometers.

The antenna will undergo vibration testing at the IABG in Germany, followed by “thermal vacuum” testing at the AAC in Austria, during which extreme temperatures will be simulated. The antenna will then return to CATR next spring for a new RF performance test.

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