Bremen, 24. August 2023. Check! The space company OHB celebrates an important milestone for the European Space Agency’s asteroid mission Hera: The mating of platform and propulsion module has been successfully completed. Now it's time for the final tasks and transport preparations before the Hera spacecraft sets off from the OHB site in Bremen on its journey to ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, The Netherlands at the end of August. The Hera mission has been running on a very tight schedule, with a mere four years available for development, construction, testing and the launch campaign.
“The mating - bringing together satellite “core” platform and propulsion module - always poses a challenge, since this is a task which requires millimetre precision. To accomplish the mating procedure, the platform module has to be lifted and hovered above the propulsion module and lowered slowly bit by bit, until both modules are accurately aligned and connected with each other,” explains Dr Stefan Voegt, Hera-Project Manager at OHB.
The next challenge for the project team is the approximately seven-months test campaign at ESTEC’s test centre. After successful completion of the environmental and functional tests, Hera will be brought to the launch site Cape Canaveral in Florida. The nearly three-week launch window for the mission will open on 7 October 2024. Then Hera will take off on a Falcon-9, heading for the Double Asteroids Didymos/Dimorphos.
Hera is the second part of the AIDA (Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment) international endeavour jointly planned with NASA, whose first part DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) has already accomplished an impact mission on Didymos/Dimorphos. The second part is the European probe Hera, with design and development led by OHB as the main contractor. After a two-year flight, the probe will arrive at the Didymos asteroid system on 16 October 2026 and carry out a detailed investigation of the impact site and the properties of Dimorphos. For this purpose, Hera will be carrying two mini satellites on board in addition to its own instruments, which detach from the probe after arrival at the Didymos asteroid system and conduct experiments independently. Thanks to these data, Hera will allow a comprehensive interpretation of the effects of the DART impact and thus the full assessment of the effectiveness of the applied methodology for asteroid deflection.