On 15 September the European Space Agency (ESA) awarded the construction contract for their HERA mission to German manufacturer OHB Systems. The contract is valued at EUR€129.4m (US$153.3m). OHB will be the lead in a team with 17 other companies from ESA member states. HERA is a planned mission to investigate the Didymos and Dimorphos binary asteroid system.

Rendering of the ESA HERA spacecraft. Courtesy of ESA-Science Office

 

The HERA mission is working in conjunction with a planned NASA mission, DART. DART is intended to launch in 2021, and reach the asteroids in 2022 when it will intentionally crash into Dimorphos. HERA will follow-on with a launch in 2024 with an expected arrival in 2026. Once orbiting the asteroids HERA will be able to analysis any changes in the orbit of Dimorphos. Insights gained will help gain understanding of potential asteroid deflection techniques.

The HERA spacecraft is also expected to carry two CubeSats to the binary asteroids.