(ORDO NEWS) — One of the brightest space events of the past year was the collision of the NASA DART mission with Dimorph, a small satellite of the asteroid Didyma.
The ESA spacecraft Hera will head to this binary asteroid to conduct a thorough inspection of the crater left by DART. Hera will also measure the mass and composition of Dimorph and Didim.
“Hera should be launched in October 2024. To meet this deadline, our team has been hard at work over the past year on finalizing and testing various subsystems of the spacecraft, including two small satellites that will be deployed from Hera itself in the vicinity of Dimorph.
Meanwhile, at the end of 2022, the overall mission underwent a systems design critique, at the same time that Hera received funding for its launcher and operations,” explains Ian Carnelli, who leads the mission.
“In the coming year, everything will come together: all elements of the Hera flight model must be integrated so that we can conduct a full spacecraft environmental test campaign at the ESA ESTEC center in the Netherlands.”
ESTEC is the largest satellite test center in Europe, equipped to simulate all aspects of the launch and space environment. The spacecraft test campaign is predicted to begin in the fall.
Hera will be equipped with automatic guidance, navigation and controls, allowing her to safely navigate the binary asteroid system. A camera and a laser altimeter for surface mapping will be installed on the ship’s hull.
In addition, Hera will deliver two small satellites to Dimorph. The Juventus satellite will perform the first-ever radar study of the interior of an asteroid.
It will also be equipped with a gravimeter and an accelerometer to measure the body’s ultra-low gravity and mechanical surface response.
Another satellite, Milani, will perform near-infrared spectral imaging and take samples of asteroid dust.
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