OHB plans to develop the Hera asteroid space vehicle for ESA

The European Space Agency has agreed with Germany’s satellite developer OHB which allows it to establish the Hera asteroid space vehicle. OHB announced that it would be partnering with 17 other ESA members to finalize Hera’s development before its deployment in the next four years. Hera will be venturing the Didymos and Dimorphos in the next six years for binary asteroid research that will last for half a year.  

Hera will be ESA’s second trial to deploy a spacecraft to study the phenomena behind asteroids. The first similar program, called Asteroid Impact Mission, ended four years ago after experiencing financial struggles. Hera will be going out for its mission immediately after NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) leaves on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. The mission pf DART is to crash test the binary asteroids to understand how they can handle them when they approach Earth.

DART will be hosting a payload that will detach from it before the vehicle crashes into the binary asteroid system. On the other hand, Hera will be evaluating the adjustments on the asteroid system after the collision with DART. This move will help scientists understand the composition of the asteroid system. ESA explained that they would be using Hera to analyze the test data and make it simpler for the other scientists to draw inferences.

ESA explained that there are various binary asteroid systems. For this reason, the DART program will help scientists understand the probable behavior of the binaries. The asteroids have different orientations, with one being more massive than the other. The collision between DART and the binary asteroids will generate samples that the scientists can combine for experimental analysis.

The deal between OHB and ESA covers the design costs, crashlanding activities, and sample collection of the material ejected due to crashing DART on the binary asteroids. Hera will be hosting two payloads for different firms that have applied for rideshare opportunities in this spacecraft. One of the loads, GomSpace, will be using its cubesat to evaluate the Dimorphos asteroid and understand its origin.

The other payload is a cubsat exploring the dust and mineral composition and why it exists in this binary system. Additionally, Hera will be a communication link with the designs on Earth to prevent unsuccessful exploits. The control center for this mission will be the ESA’s operations center based in Germany. Finally, Hera will bring to light a new dimension of knowledge concerning binary asteroid systems.