PARIS, 15 September 2020 (ESA PR) — Today ESA awarded a €129.4 million contract covering the detailed design, manufacturing and testing of Hera, the Agency’s first mission for planetary defence. This ambitious mission will be Europe’s contribution to an international asteroid deflection effort, set to perform sustained exploration of a double asteroid system.
Three years after the last ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level, held in Lucerne, Switzerland, government representatives from the 22 Member States met in Seville, Spain, on 27 and 28 November 2019 and committed a total of almost 14.4 billion euro [$15.87 billion] for space programmes over the next few years.
Germany is contributing 3.3 billion euro [$3.6 billion] to ESA programmes focusing on Earth observation, telecommunications, technological advancement and commercialisation / NewSpace.
At 22.9 percent, Germany is now ESA’s largest contributor, followed by France (18.5 percent, 2.66 billion euro), Italy (15.9 percent, 2.28 billion euro) and the United Kingdom (11.5 percent, 1.65 billion euro).
The ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level is the highest political decision-making body, and it defines the content and financial framework for ESA’s space programmes every two to three years.
Hera will be humanity’s first-ever spacecraft to visit a double asteroid, the Didymos binary system. First, NASA will crash its DART spacecraft into the smaller asteroid – known as Didymoon – before ESA’s Hera comes in to map the resulting impact crater and measure the asteroid’s mass.
Hera will carry two CubeSats on board, which will be able to fly much closer to the asteroid’s surface, carrying out crucial scientific studies, before touching down. Hera’s up-close observations will turn asteroid deflection into a well-understood planetary defence technique.
ROME (ESA PR) — Asteroid researchers and spacecraft engineers from the US, Europe and around the world will gather in Rome next week to discuss the latest progress in their common goal: an ambitious double-spacecraft mission to deflect an asteroid in space, to prove the technique as a viable method of planetary defence.
This combined mission is known as the Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment, or AIDA for short. Its purpose is to deflect the orbit of the smaller body of the double Didymos asteroids between Earth and Mars through an impact by one spacecraft. Then a second spacecraft will survey the crash site and gather the maximum possible data on the effect of this collision.
TOULOUSE, France (ESA PR) — ESA’s Hera mission for planetary defence, being designed to survey the smallest asteroid ever explored, is really three spacecraft in one. The main mothership will carry two briefcase-sized CubeSats, which will touch down on the target body. A French team has been investigating what might happen at that initial instant of alien contact.
“We’ve customised an existing drop tower and rigged it up with a system of pulleys and counterweights in order to simulate a low gravity environment,” explains researcher Naomi Murdoch of the Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace (ISAE-Supaero), part of the University of Toulouse.