The HERA mission, of the European Space Agency, is part of a broader international project for planetary defense from possible space threats, such as asteroids. The electrical and communication part of the mission was entrusted to the Italian-French joint venture Thales Alenia Space.
The defense program against possible dangerous asteroids is called AIDA (Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment), of which HERA is part and represents the European part: the final discovery will be to demonstrate that it is possible to deflect an asteroid from its course of collision thus inaugurating the first mission of a planetary defense project of humanity. It therefore seems that space agencies no longer have doubts whether it is better to destroy or deflect an asteroid.
AIDA has two fundamental parts: the mission DART (NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test), a kinetic device designed to deflect the orbit of the smaller of the two Didymos asteroids (one of the possibly damaging asteroid prototypes), and the controlling spacecraft HERA of ESA, which will make a rendezvous with the target asteroid about 4 years after the impact of DART.
In the European mission, the Thales Alenia Space which will provide the communication system and other key tools to the spacecraft (such as solar cells and propulsion system). The systems provided by Italian-French company they will be essential, allowing to control and track the vehicle up to a distance of 500 million kilometers, and to send all the information collected by HERA back to Earth and carry out radio science.
Eduardo Bellido, CEO of Thales Alenia Space in Spain, said: “It is exciting to be part of this historic experiment for humanity. Our technology will provide essential data to scientists to establish a planetary defense strategy based on the deflection of asteroids, to avoid the threat of impact on Earth. The landing on Titan. , mapping the Universe with Herschel and Planck, chasing a comet with the Rosetta probe and now preventing the Earth from being hit by asteroids: all remarkable and unimaginable challenges that our society is proud to face “.
We recently witnessed an incredibly close passage of a dangerous object. The HERA mission should start inyear 2024, and will be the first vehicle to explore a binary asteroids like Didymos and Dimorphos; the latter also could become the smallest asteroid ever visited by a probe, having an average diameter of only 160 meters.