HERA, the probe that is investigating the DART impact crater, is ready
The HERA spacecraft was assembled, and its two main pieces were stacked on top of each other at the OHB facility in Germany. flour practical During this process, the Hera’s central unit was lifted 3 meters towards the motor unit, and then gradually and carefully fitted into place over the course of three hours. As you can see in the image below, the units have been ‘sealed’ in cages to ensure they are positioned relative to each other with an accuracy of a few tenths of a millimeter. By the way, the process was already simulated using CAD software, but OHB’s assembly, integration and testing team nonetheless continuously checked the alignment while the crane gradually lowered the center unit.
The probe, assembled into a single spacecraft, is now ready for further testing, so that in October 2024 it can head to the moon Dimorphos, where it can examine the DART impact crater.
The central unit, known as the core of the HERA spacecraft, is made of carbon fiber reinforced polymer, which is sufficiently rigid and provides a strong base. This module will house all of the mission’s science instruments, as well as the onboard computer and other subsystems. The fully equipped propulsion unit will deliver the Hera probe to the asteroid Didymus (‘Didimos A’) and its smaller companion Dimorphos (‘Didymos b’) within 26 months. You can read about the importance and operation of the AFC (asteroid-framing camera) instrument used for observation in our previous article, as well as about the spacecraft’s high-gain antenna.