The European Space Agency (ESA) has decided to do its part in protecting the Earth from asteroids that can threaten life on our planet. The agency has signed a $ 153 million contract with a consortium led by German aerospace company OHB. As part of the agreement, the company undertakes to develop a detailed plan for the Hera mission, build the spacecraft necessary for this and conduct their tests. The goal of the Hera program is to assist NASA in the DART project, which may become the foundation of the future planetary defense of the Earth.
As part of the Hera mission, the European Space Agency intends to launch a large satellite into orbit, which will house many CubeSat mini-satellites. Their task will be to comprehensively study the operation of the DART apparatus, which is, in fact, a space ram for deflecting dangerous asteroids from their trajectory. The CubeSat satellites will study the remains of the asteroid targeted by this program. According to the plan, it will take them six months.
The DART mission is scheduled to launch in July 2021, with the strike satellite arriving at its target, the twin asteroid Didymos, in September next year. The Hera mission starts in October 2024 and will meet with target asteroids in 2026. Thus, a considerable time will pass between the destruction of Didymos and the arrival of scientific satellites. Scientists hope that this will be enough for the effect of DART on its target to manifest itself in full least.