Space camera from Jena on the hunt for asteroids

Jena-Optronik GmbH is delivering a new camera system to the prime contractor OHB System AG for the HERA mission.


The European Space Agency’s (ESA) space probe HERA, together with its fellow spacecraft, the NASA probe DART (short for: Double Asteroid Redirection Test), plans to investigate the effects of an kinetic impact on an asteroid. The results of this experiment will help to develop methods and technologies to divert such rocks in space. OHB System AG, a subsidiary of the space group OHB SE, won the ESA contract to lead the industrial consortium for HERA.

“HERA is a prestigious mission and we at Jena-Optronik are looking forward to make a decisive contribution to its success with our camera. During this mission, the two probes DART and HERA fly to the asteroid Didymos. While DART will “collide” with the asteroid, HERA's task is to collect relevant data on the results of the impact about four years later - the camera is going to observe the asteroid is manufactured by Jena-Optronik. The purpose of the HERA mission is to gain a better understanding of the structure and composition of asteroids. At the same time, it is anticipated to obtain knowledge which will help us to be better prepared for a potential, necessary defence against an asteroid,” Steffen Schwarz, Head of Marketing & Sales at Jena-Optronik explains.

The camera for HERA is based on the ASTROhead featuring an adapted optics tailored to the requirements of the mission. The Jena space specialists celebrated its maiden flight in 2019 on the Mission Extension Vehicle "MEV" which extends the service life of satellites. The compact HERA camera will be used for navigation and for taking scientific pictures of the asteroid.

Steffen Schwarz adds, “We are very much looking forward to this exciting project with our long-term customer OHB. With this mission we not only want to fly together in the near-earth orbit as we did in the past, but also a fair way beyond that."

The results of the mission will provide valuable data for the so-called AIDA collaboration (short for: Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment) of the space agencies ESA and NASA. This contributes to protect life on Earth from the danger of asteroid impacts from space.

With a wide range of applications reaching from navigation and image recording to the detection of threats in space ("Space Situational Awareness"), cameras, star sensors and space optics from Jena are perfectly suited for versatile applications for both manned and unmanned space missions.


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