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  • richardmitnick 12:06 pm on July 1, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Q&A- How we’re gearing up to deflect asteroids that might cause Earth considerable damage", , Dr Naomi Murdoch, ESA Hera mission, ,   

    From Horizon The EU Research and Innovation Magazine : “Q&A- How we’re gearing up to deflect asteroids that might cause Earth considerable damage” 

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    From Horizon The EU Research and Innovation Magazine

    06 April 2021 [Why now!! This just showed up in social media.]
    Natalie Grover

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    “Asteroids hold clues about how our solar system formed. Their physical makeup and composition can also help answer the big question of how life emerged”, tells Dr Naomi Murdoch, planetary scientist specialised in the geophysical evolution of asteroids at the French aeronautics and space institute National Higher School of Mechanics and Aerotechnics [ISAE-ENSMA // École Nationale Supérieure de Mécanique et d’Aérotechnique | Le site de l’école ISAE-ENSMA situé au Futuroscope de Poitiers. (FR). Image credit – Naomi Murdoch.

    Asteroids — the bits and pieces left over from the formation of the inner planets — are a source of great curiosity for those keen to learn about the building blocks of our solar system, and to probe the chemistry of life.

    Humans are also considering mining asteroids for metals, but one of the crucial reasons scientists study this ancient space rubble is planetary defense, given the potential for space debris to cause Earth harm.

    Accordingly, NASA is planning a 2022 planetary defense mission that involves sending a spacecraft to crash into a near-Earth asteroid in an effort to check whether it could be deflected were it on a collision course with Earth.

    Dr Naomi Murdoch — a planetary scientist at the French aeronautics and space institute ISAE-SUPAERO, who specialises in the geophysical evolution of asteroids — is part of a follow-on mission planned by the European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU).

    She tells Horizon about the mission will characterise the asteroid after impact to obtain data that will inform strategies designed to address any threatening asteroids that might come Earth’s way.

    But are we in any real danger of being wiped out by a big rocky remnant? Not really, but some asteroids can cause considerable damage, which is why we’re shoring up our defences here on Earth, she suggests.

    What makes asteroids interesting?

    Asteroids hold clues about how our solar system formed. Their physical makeup and composition can also help answer the big question of how life emerged.

    How many have we identified – and what are they made of?

    So far, we have identified more than a million asteroids, but there are tens, if not hundreds of millions out there that we don’t know about. This is because unlike stars, asteroids don’t emit a light of their own, they only reflect sunlight, so many of the smaller ones are difficult to spot.

    What they are made of depends on where they were formed in the solar system. The ones that formed closest to the sun have borne the brunt of the heat, losing material that could have been really interesting to study. But the most common ones are those that formed furthest away from the sun: the C (carbonaceous)-type, likely consisting of clay and silicate rocks, are among the most ancient objects in the solar system but are hard to detect because they are relatively dark in colour.

    Then there are brighter options. The M (metallic)-type, composed mainly of metallic iron, largely inhabit the asteroid belt’s middle section. (The asteroid belt lies roughly between Mars and Jupiter). The S (stony)-type, comprising silicate materials and nickel-iron, are most commonly found in the inner asteroid belt.

    Most meteorites (a small piece of an asteroid or comet that survives the journey across Earth’s atmosphere) found on Earth are either metallic or stony. It is less likely that the carbonaceous type will be found on the ground, unless the asteroids were quite large because they have to survive our planet’s atmosphere without completely burning up. Basically, the types of meteorites that we find on the ground are not necessarily representative of the type of asteroids that would even hit our atmosphere.

    So what kind of asteroid are scientists wary of in terms of the danger they pose to our planet?

    Any asteroid size could in principle, hit us, but the largest asteroids are easy to detect — we’ve identified the vast majority of them and they’re not risky. There are many, many more small asteroids than there are large ones, and because they’re small, they’re really difficult to detect and difficult to follow. We have to look for them several times in order to pinpoint their orbit to know where they’re going to be in space.

    What we focus on are those (small asteroids) in the 100-to-500-metre size range. This size range is probably the most dangerous because they could still cause a large amount of damage on Earth, for example on a regional and national scale. But we don’t know yet where they all are, which is why this is the key size range for planetary defence, because there’s a risk of discovering one day that one we didn’t know existed is coming towards us.

    Space scientists are trying to improve our ability to detect these smaller asteroids, then assess whether they are threats, and finally, if need be, (we try to) deflect the object.

    As part of the NEO-MAPP project, we are helping prepare for these planetary defence missions by improving space instruments that are linked to measuring properties of the surface, the subsurface and the internal structure of asteroids, because it’s these parameters that will govern whether a deflection mission is successful or not. Another objective is to develop a better understanding of landing on asteroids, of the consequences of their low gravity environment, and how to interpret data recorded during surface interactions.

    Once you’ve detected an asteroid you want to explore, how do you go about landing on one?

    Before the first space missions, many people thought that asteroids were just boring lumps of rock, but we started to realise that they were actually a lot more interesting. They have their own evolutionary history, which is really important to understand the solar system in general.

    The only way to really probe the mechanical and physical properties of an asteroid is to touch and interact directly with it, but we don’t have a good understanding of the actual surface of asteroids, which harbour a low-gravity environment. It’s a really exotic place, typically covered by granular material like sand, rocks, boulders, depending on the type of asteroid and its size. And this granular material, in that low gravity environment, appears to behave much more like a fluid than the same material would behave on Earth.

    As a result, previous missions have had varying degrees of landing success so we are now studying landing behaviour in gravitational conditions similar to those on asteroids.

    You are part of the European Space Agency’s Hera mission, which will follow-on from NASA’s DART mission to a binary asteroid system. What are these missions hoping to achieve?

    DART is an upcoming planetary defence mission designed to collide with a smaller asteroid moon, called Dimorphos, orbiting with the near-Earth asteroid Didymos. The idea is to test whether Dimorphos’s orbit can be deflected. In the days following, we’ll know whether the deflection was successful or not. Then, Hera will survey and characterise the asteroid pair and the resulting crater.

    The main Hera spacecraft will not touch the surface, and will perform all of the investigations in orbit around the asteroids. However, mini satellites called cubesats will land on the moon. One, for instance, will orbit and study the asteroid (the main instrument is a radar for looking inside it), and then it will descend to the surface. The landing part of the mission is ‘bonus science’ (not necessary to achieve the mission goals), but extremely interesting in order to characterise the physical properties of the asteroid.

    The idea behind these missions is to test a key deflection method and to understand the target. Although Dimorphos is not a threat to Earth, it is a size that is roughly in line with potentially threatening asteroids. What we want to do is have a well-characterised, large-scale experiment that we can use to extrapolate to any potential asteroid threats. In order to do that we need to learn about our targets, including their form, mass density, the impact crater size and the level of debris generated upon collision.

    By measuring the physical properties and characterising the target in detail we can calibrate our numerical (impact) models. If one day a potentially dangerous asteroid comes our way, we can use these models to predict what may happen if we try to deflect it.

    Another feature of Hera is the plan to take a look inside the moon. I think it’s going to be extremely exciting to see what’s in there, because that’s going to tell us a lot about the history of the asteroid-moon pair.

    So we’re gearing up to tackle any asteroids that might cause Earth some damage. But how likely are we to be wiped out completely by an asteroid?

    Small asteroids, including pieces tiny enough to be called space dust, hit our atmosphere every day — that is what shooting stars are. The probability of an asteroid causing large-scale damage is very small. That 100-to-500-metre size range is the most threatening range — so that’s what scientists are working on at the moment.

    Overall, we can all sleep soundly knowing that it is extremely unlikely that we’re going to be wiped out by an asteroid.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 8:29 am on June 3, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Queen’s Brian May works to probe origin of asteroids", Bennu and Ryugu asteroids, ESA Hera mission, ,   

    From European Space Agency – United Space in Europe: “Queen’s Brian May works to probe origin of asteroids” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency – United Space in Europe

    6.2.20

    Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May has teamed up with asteroid researchers to investigate striking similarities and a puzzling difference between separate bodies explored by space probes.

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    Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May © brianmay.com

    The research team ran a supercomputer-based ‘fight club’ involving simulated large asteroid collisions to probe the objects’ likely origins. Their work is reported in Nature Communications.

    Both the 525-m diameter Bennu asteroid visited by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx and 1-km diameter Ryugu asteroid reached by Japan’s Hayabusa2 possess the same distinct spinning-top shape and similar material densities.

    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft

    JAXA/Hayabusa 2 Credit: JAXA/Akihiro Ikeshita

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    Asteroids Bennu and Ryugu

    However the pair contain differing amounts of water, as revealed in spectral mapping of hydrated materials. Ryugu appears weakly hydrated compared to Bennu, despite being a comparative youth in asteroid terms, estimated at a mere 100 million years old.

    Spinning-top-shaped mystery

    The study was led by Patrick Michel, CNRS Director of Research of France’s Côte d’Azur Observatory, also lead scientist of ESA’s Hera mission for planetary defence. He notes that this research also has relevance for Hera, which will explore the Didymos binary asteroid system following the orbital deflection of the smaller of the two bodies by NASA’s DART spacecraft.

    NASA DART Double Impact Redirection Test vehicle depiction schematic

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    NASA’s DART impacting asteroid

    “This spinning top shape of Bennu and Ryugu – including a pronounced equatorial bulge – is shared by many other asteroids, including the primary 780-m Didymos asteroid,” explains Patrick.

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    Didymos with its moon. Credit: ESA

    “A leading hypothesis has been that a high rate of spin leads to centrifugal force changing their shape over time, as material flows from the poles to the equator. Such a spin can be built up over time by the gradual warming of sunlight – known as the Yarkovsky–O’Keefe–Radzievskii–Paddack (YORP) effect, named after four different asteroid researchers.

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    Asteroid fragments re-accumulating

    “For Didymos, this might explain where Didymos A’s smaller moonlet came from – forming out of material that broke free of the fast-spinning equator. In the case of Bennu and Ryugu there is a problem however: close-up inspection by their respective spacecraft has revealed large craters on their equatorial ridges, suggesting these bulges formed very early in the asteroids’ history.”

    The findings posed a question, explains co-lead author Ron Ballouz of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona: “Are these properties – asteroid shape, density, more or less high hydration levels – the consequence of the evolutions of these objects, once formed, or the immediate outcome of their formation?”

    Step back in time with supercomputer simulations

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    Bluecrab supercomputer cluster operated by the Maryland Advanced Research Computing Center, through the Johns Hopkins University and University of Maryland.

    As a way of looking back in time, the researchers ran numerical simulations of 100-km class asteroids being disrupted by collisions, releasing plentiful fragments that gradually reformed into aggregate bodies – believed to be the way that most asteroids larger than 200 m have been formed.

    The simulations were run using the Bluecrab supercomputer cluster operated by the Maryland Advanced Research Computing Center, through the Johns Hopkins University and University of Maryland.

    “The simulation runs were extremely computationally intense, and took several months to perform,” adds Patrick Michel. “The most challenging part was simulating the re-accumulation process, which included detailed coding for particle contact including rolling, sliding and shear friction. We also looked at the heating level of the post-impact fragments, determining their hydration level.

    “What we found was, while the re-accumulation process led to a wide variety of shapes, there is a tendency towards a spinning-top because the aggregating material can be captured in a central disc and eventually forms a spinning top or at least a re-accumulated spheroid. This spheroid can then be spun up by the YORP effect to form an equatorial bulge in a rapid timescale in asteroid terms, of less than a million years, explaining what we see on Bennu and Ryugu.”

    The team’s other finding is that final hydration levels can vary markedly among the aggregates formed by the disruption of their parent body. Brian May worked with Claudia Manzoni of the London Stereoscopic Company to produce stereogram 3D images of the immediate aftermath of impacts, revealing individual fragments show a broad diversity in heating levels, and therefore hydration.

    “During a collision, it is thus possible to form an aggregate like Bennu, that experienced little impact heating, and another with more heated material, such as Ryugu,” explains Brian May.

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    Stereogram images of simulated asteroid disruption.

    Asteroid family trees

    Patrick Michel adds: “The upshot is that Bennu and Ryugu might actually be part of the same asteroid family, originating from the same parent, despite their very different hydration levels now. We know they come from the same region of the Asteroid Belt, which makes this more likely, although we will only know for sure when we can analyse the asteroid samples due to be returned by Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx.”

    Brian May’s involvement came out of his asteroid research activities, including working on the Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx science teams and as a member of the Advisory Board of the Near-Earth Object Modelling and Payload for Protection (NEO-MAPP) project, funded by the H2020 program of the European Commission.


    Hera: ESA’s planetary defence mission

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 11:15 am on September 2, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AIDA-Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment, An ambitious double-spacecraft mission to deflect an asteroid in space to prove the technique as a viable method of planetary defence., Didymos'-(a near-Earth asteroid system) main body measures about 780 m across with its moonlet about 160 m in diameter., , ESA Hera mission, ,   

    From European Space Agency: “Europe and US teaming up for asteroid deflection” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration

    2 September 2019

    Asteroid researchers and spacecraft engineers from the US, Europe and around the world will gather in Rome next week to discuss the latest progress in their common goal: an ambitious double-spacecraft mission to deflect an asteroid in space, to prove the technique as a viable method of planetary defence.

    This combined mission is known as the Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment, or AIDA for short. Its purpose is to deflect the orbit of the smaller body of the double Didymos asteroids between Earth and Mars through an impact by one spacecraft. Then a second spacecraft will survey the crash site and gather the maximum possible data on the effect of this collision.

    The three-day International AIDA Workshop will take place on 11–13 September in the historic surroundings of the ‘Aula Ottagona’ in central Rome, part of the Baths of Emperor Diocletian which went on to serve as a planetarium in the last century.

    Participants will share the current progress of the two spacecraft making up AIDA – including the smaller nano-spacecraft they will carry aboard them – as well the latest results of global astronomical campaigns undertaken to learn more about the distant Didymos asteroids.

    NASA’s contribution to AIDA, the Double Asteroid Impact Test, or DART spacecraft, is already under construction for launch in summer 2021, to collide with its target at 6.6 km/s in September 2022. Flying along with DART will be an Italian-made miniature CubeSat called LICIACube (Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids) to record the moment of impact.

    NASA DART Double Impact Redirection Test vehicle depiction schematic

    Then will come ESA’s part of AIDA, a mission called Hera which will perform a close-up survey of the post-impact asteroid, acquiring measurements such as the asteroid’s mass and detailed crater shape.

    ESA’s proposed Hera spaceraft

    Hera will also deploy a pair of CubeSats for close-up asteroid surveys and the very first radar probe of an asteroid.

    The results returned by Hera would allow researchers to better model the efficiency of the collision, to turn this grand-scale experiment into a technique which could be repeated as needed in the event of a real threat.

    Hera is currently undergoing final phase B2 design work, ahead of a decision to proceed by Europe’s space ministers at the Space19+ Ministerial Conference this November, as part of the proposed new ESA Space Safety Programme. Launch will occur in October 2024 and the journey will take about two years.

    “DART can perform its mission without Hera – the effect of its impact on the asteroid’s orbit will be measurable using Earth ground-based observatories alone,” explains Ian Carnelli, managing Hera for ESA.

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    DART mission profile
    04/06/2018
    Copyright NASA
    NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test, DART, mission is the US component of AIDA, intended to collide with the smaller of two bodies of the Didymos binary asteroid system in October 2022. ESA’s Hera mission will then perform follow-up post-impact observations.

    “But flying the two missions together will greatly magnify their overall knowledge return. Hera will in fact gather essential data to turn this one-off experiment into an asteroid deflection technique applicable to other asteroids. Hera will also be the first mission to rendezvous with a binary asteroid system, a mysterious class of object believed to make up around 15% of all known asteroids.

    “And our mission will test a variety of important new technologies, including deep space CubeSats, inter-satellite links and autonomous image-based navigation techniques, while also providing us with valuable experience of low-gravity operations.

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    Hera at Didymos
    09/05/2018
    Copyright ESA–ScienceOffice.org

    ESA’s Hera mission concept, currently under study, would be humanity’s first mission to a binary asteroid: the 780 m-diameter Didymos is accompanied by a 160 m-diameter secondary body. Hera will study the aftermath of the impact caused by the NASA spacecraft DART on the smaller body.

    “I also believe it is vital that Europe plays a leading role in AIDA, an innovative mission originally developed through ESA research back in 2003. An international effort is the appropriate way forward – planetary defence is in everyone’s interest.”

    A near-Earth asteroid system, Didymos’s main body measures about 780 m across, with its moonlet about 160 m in diameter, about the size of Egypt’s Great Pyramid. It was selected carefully as a deflection target.

    Due to the relatively small mass and gravities of these bodies, the smaller asteroid orbits its parent at a comparatively low velocity of a few centimetres per second, making it feasible to shift its orbit in a measurable way – something which would not be achievable so precisely with a lone asteroid in a much more rapidly moving solar orbit.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 12:42 pm on May 3, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: APEX Asteroid Prospection Explorer, , , , , , ESA Hera mission, Juventas will be a ‘6-unit’ CubeSat   

    From European Space Agency: “Hera’s CubeSat to perform first radar probe of an asteroid” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    1 May 2019

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    Juventas CubeSat

    Small enough to be an aircraft carry-on, the Juventas spacecraft nevertheless has big mission goals. Once in orbit around its target body, Juventas will unfurl an antenna larger than itself, to perform the very first subsurface radar survey of an asteroid.

    ESA’s proposed Hera mission for planetary defence will explore the twin Didymos asteroids, but it will not go there alone: it will also serve as mothership for Europe’s first two ‘CubeSats’ to travel into deep space.

    CubeSats are nanosatellite-class missions based on standardised 10-cm boxes, making maximum use of commercial off the shelf systems. Juventas will be a ‘6-unit’ CubeSat, selected to fly aboard Hera along with the similarly-sized APEX Asteroid Prospection Explorer, built by a Swedish-Finnish-German-Czech consortium.

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    APEX CubeSat

    Juventas – the Roman name for the daughter of Hera – is being developed for ESA by the GomSpace company and GMV in Romania, together with consortia of additional partners developing the spacecraft instruments.

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    Hera at Didymos

    “We’re packing a lot of complexity into the mission,” notes GomSpace systems engineer Hannah Goldberg. “One of the biggest misconceptions about CubeSats is that they are simple, but we have all the same systems as a standard-sized spacecraft.

    “Another reputation of CubeSats is that they don’t do that much, but we have multiple mission goals over the course of our month-long mission around the smaller Didymos asteroid. One of our CubeSat units is devoted to our low-frequency radar instrument, which will be a first in asteroid science.”

    Juventas will deploy a metre and a half long radar antenna, which will unfurl like a tape measure, and was developed by Astronika in Poland. This instrument is based on the heritage of the CONSERT radar that flew on ESA’s Rosetta comet chaser, overseen by Alain Herique of the Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble (IPAG).

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    Juventas with radar deployed

    The radar signals should reach one hundred metres down, giving insight into the asteroid’s internal structure. “Is it a rubble pile, or something more layered, or monolithic?” adds Hannah, who previously worked at asteroid mining company Planetary Resources before moving to GomSpace.

    “This is the sort of information that is going to be essential for future mining missions, to estimate where the resources are, how mixed up they are, and how much effort will be required to extract them.”

    ESA radar specialist Christopher Buck has worked on the instrument design with IPAG: “Our radar instrument’s size and power is much lower than those of previous missions, so what we’re doing is using a pseudo-random code sequence in the signals – think of it a poor man’s alternative. Navigation satellites use a comparable technique, allowing receivers to make up for their very low power.

    “We send a series of signals possessing constantly shifting signal phase, then we gradually build up a picture by correlating the reflections of these signals, employing their phase shifts as our guide. One reason we are able to do this is that we will be orbiting around the asteroid relatively slowly, on the order of a few centimetres per second, giving us longer integration times compared to orbits around Earth or other planets.”

    The technology proved itself with the Rosetta, where the CONSERT radar peered deep inside comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and helped locate the Philae lander on the comet’s surface. Juventas uses a more compact ‘monostatic’ version of the design.

    As Juventas orbits, the CubeSat will also be gathering data on the asteroid’s gravity field using both a dedicated 3-axis ‘gravimeter’ – first developed by the Royal Observatory of Belgium for Japan’s proposed Martian Moons eXploration mission – as well as its radio link back to Hera, measuring any Doppler shifting of communications signals caused by its proximity to the body.

    “But the mission is being designed to operate with minimal contact with its mothership and the ground, operating autonomously for days at a time,” says Hannah.

    “This is a big difference from Earth orbit, where communications are much simpler and more frequent. So we will fly in what is called a ‘self-stabilising terminator orbit’ around the asteroid, perpendicular to the Sun, requiring minimal station-keeping manoeuvring.”

    The final phase of the mission will come with a precisely-controlled attempt to land on the asteroid.

    “We’ll have gyroscopes and accelerometers aboard, so we will capture the force of our impact, and any follow-on bouncing, to gain insight into the asteroid’s surface properties – although we don’t know how well Juventas will continue to operate once it finally touches down. If we are able to successfully operate after the impact, we will continue to take local gravity field measurements from the asteroid surface.”

    The Hera mission, including its two CubeSats, will be presented to ESA’s Space19+ meeting this November, where Europe’s space ministers will take a final decision on flying the mission.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 9:17 am on March 19, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ESA Hera mission, NASA Dawn mission   

    From European Space Agency: “ESA’s Hera asteroid mission borrows eyes of NASA’s Dawn” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    18 March 2019

    The mission to the smallest asteroid ever explored will employ the same main camera as the mission to the largest asteroids of all. ESA’s proposed Hera spacecraft to the Didymos asteroid pair has inherited its main imager from NASA’s Dawn mission to the Vesta and Ceres asteroids.

    ESA’s proposed Hera spaceraft

    NASA/DLR Dawn Spacescraft (2007-2018)

    Hera is currently the subject of detailed design work, ahead of being presented to Europe’s space ministers at the Space19+ Ministerial Council at the end of this year, for launch in late 2023. The spacecraft will survey a tiny 160-m diameter moon of the 780-m diameter Didymos asteroid, in the aftermath of a pioneering planetary defence experiment.

    But the Asteroid Framing Camera (AFC) Hera will use to navigate through space and survey its targeted double asteroids is already built and ready. Two of these cameras – Hera will carry a pair, for redundancy – are sitting in protective nitrogen gas inside a clean room in Göttingen, Germany.

    DLR Asteroid Framing Camera used on NASA Dawn and ESA HERA missions

    “The AFC was designed specifically for NASA’s Dawn mission to the two largest bodies in the Asteroid belt: Vesta, at 525 km across, and 946 km diameter Ceres,” explains Holger Sierks of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research.

    “There was no other camera aboard the spacecraft so the AFC had a mission-critical role, being employed both for navigation and scientific investigation.

    “The AFC worked like Swiss clockwork throughout Dawn’s 11-year lifetime. Before Dawn finally ended in November 2018 the spacecraft came as close as 30 km from the surface of Ceres, and returned spectacular views of its striking bright spots.

    “At the same time the camera, equipped with seven spectral filters from the visible to the near-infrared, was able to gather spectral information on these formations, as well as the rest of the asteroids. An eighth clear filter was used when the AFC was employed for navigation purposes and for broadband surface science.”

    MPS Spectral filters on DLR Asteroid Framing Camera used on NASA Dawn and ESA HERA missions

    Two AFC flight units were supplied to NASA by the Institute, in cooperation with the DLR German Aerospace Center and the Technical University of Braunschweig’s Institute of Computer and Network Engineering. A spare camera was built and kept at the Institute to replace a flight unit if needed.

    “We still had spare, flight quality subsystems including the optics that we could integrate into a full camera, so ended up with two flight ready spares on the shelf,” adds Holger. “We wanted to find a flight use for them, and decided we should contribute these fully mission proven cameras to Europe’s next asteroid mission free of charge.”

    The 5.5 kg AFC resembles a computer printer-sized box containing power and mass memory with a thermally insulated telescope extending out from it. Maximum image sensitivity is ensured by cooling the telescope’s CCD light detector down to -60 °C.

    One qualification model camera has already been lent to GMV in Spain as they develop autonomous navigation systems for Hera. This allows the team to test their feature-detecting algorithms with the same hardware as will actually be flown.

    While the AFC was designed specifically for Vesta and Ceres, Holger explains the camera is also a very good fit for Hera – especially with its dual science and navigation functionality: “When we designed it, those two asteroids were only known to us as little dots in the sky, just a few pixels across at best using the Hubble Space Telescope, like the Didymos system today. The camera’s optics – the work of the Kayser-Threde company in Munich, now owned by OHB – are distortion free with a sharp focus, right down to 150 m from the target surface.”

    The Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research also built the Rosetta comet chaser’s main Osiris science imager, so has plenty of experience in imaging distant planetoids close up. “These bodies would be dark like charcoal to the human eye, so it takes highly sensitive detectors and carefully judged exposure times to see what we see.”

    ESA/Rosetta spacecraft, European Space Agency’s legendary comet explorer Rosetta

    Hera’s planetary defence purpose feels personal to Holger and the rest of the Institute team. The team recently met in the German town of Nördlingen, located inside a 24-km diameter crater, formed by an impacting binary asteroid just like Didymos and its moon an estimated 14 million years ago.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

    ESA50 Logo large

     
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