ESA prepares Hera mission to investigate aftermath of NASA DART impact

On 26 September 2022, NASA’s DART spacecraft slammed into the asteroid Dimorphos, shifting its trajectory around its parent asteroid, Didymos. The mission was the first of a duo of craft set to visit the binary asteroid system in an attempt to learn more about how we might protect our planet from asteroids, should one be on a collision course.

The follow-up mission, involving a spacecraft called Hera built by the European Space Agency (ESA), is due to launch in October. It will investigate the collision’s aftermath using a suite of detectors and will carry two CubeSats called Juventus and Milani. But before it can leave Earth, Hera must undergo a barrage of tests at ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre in the Netherlands to ensure it can deal with the rigours of launch and space.

Heli Greus, the mission’s product assurance and safety manager, is overseeing checks that include extreme noise and vibrations to simulate launch conditions, and a thermal vacuum test, in which Hera will face the extreme temperature and other fluctuations that it will experience in space. If it passes, Greus will be the last person to sign the probe off for launch. But, she says, in every launch campaign, there are always surprises.

Topics:

Related Posts