Planetary protection: ESA awards €129 million contract to German satellite tv for pc maker for ‘Hera’ ANTI-ASTEROID system

The European Area Company has awarded a contract price €129.four million ($153.three million) to German satellite tv for pc producer OHB to steer the event of the pioneering Hera planetary protection mission.

Hera, named after the Greek goddess of marriage amd household, is Europe’s addition to worldwide asteroid protection programs. The contract covers Hera’s design, integration and testing — and OHB will take the helm of a group of corporations from 17 ESA member states all aiming for an October 2024 launch.  

If all goes to plan, Hera will take up orbit across the stays of the so-called double or ‘binary’ asteroid system of Didymos and Dimorphos, utilizing autonomous navigation programs not too dissimilar from these present in driverless vehicles right here on Earth. The system includes about 15 p.c of all recognized asteroids.

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Dimorphos, the smaller of the 2 asteroids, measuring about the identical dimension because the Nice Pyramid at Giza, would be the goal of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Check, or DART, mission scheduled to launch in July 2021. 

DART is aiming to smash into Dimorphos in September 2022 in an try and deflect it astray as a take a look at run of our planetary defenses. 

If all goes nicely, DART is anticipated to vary Dimorphos’ orbiting velocity by about 0.5mms per second and lengthen its orbit by round 200 seconds, however we received’t be capable of affirm the success, or failure, of the mission till Hera arrives on scene in late 2026 to conduct a six-month research. 

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Hera will carry two CubeSats (miniature satellites used for low Earth orbit) on board, which can survey what’s left of the asteroid, whereas the principle craft itself will act as a relay for communications with Earth. The mission would be the ESA’s second tried planetary protection program; the Asteroid Influence Mission was canceled in 2016 after failing to safe ample funding. 

Time is of the essence as, every week, new stories of asteroids headed in the direction of the Earth’s yard make the headlines, with little improvement of lively defenses on the horizon other than the DART and Hera missions.

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