Europe’s Hera Asteroid Mission Reaches Major Milestone – Parabolic Arc

Hera spacecraft propulsion module (Credit: OHB)

PARIS (ESA PR) — A key part of ESA’s Hera mission for planetary defense has left its manufacturer OHB’s facilities in Bremen – a major step in preparing for its eventual odyssey to the Didymos asteroid system.

The flight model of the mission’s propulsion module, seen here, has been delivered to Avio, southeast of Rome, where the propellant tanks, thrusters and associated pipes and valves will be integrated into it. The fully-equipped propulsion module is what will take Hera on its 26-month journey through deep space to the main asteroid Didymos and its smaller companion Dimorphos.

On September 26 this year, Dimorphos will become the very first body in the solar system to have its orbit measurably altered by human action, when NASA’s DART spacecraft impacts it. When Hera arrives at the asteroid in December 2026, the spacecraft will perform a detailed post-crash survey, assessing the mass and composition of Dimorphos and measuring the crater left by the DART impact, helping to validate the kinetic impact by as a feasible method of planetary defense.

Meanwhile, the other half of Hera, the Core Module, is also taking shape at OHB in Bremen. The main module will carry all the scientific instruments of the mission as well as the on-board computer and other subsystems. The spacecraft will be complete when these two halves are finally brought together, ahead of Hera’s scheduled launch in October 2024.