A team of ISAE-SUPAERO researchers is participating in the first international planetary defense mission!

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On November 24, 2021, NASA launched DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test), a first-of-its-kind mission to impact and deflect the path of the asteroid Dimorphos in space. Our space systems researchers (SSPA research group), are actively collaborating on this planetary defense mission, and are also participating in the Hera mission which will study, in a second phase, the detailed characteristics of the asteroid as well as the size and shape of the crater left by DART.

The objective of the mission is to launch a probe-missile that will crash in 10 months on the near-Earth asteroid Dimorphos to modify its orbit and thus test our ability to protect ourselves from collisions of celestial bodies with the Earth. Today, no known asteroids threaten to impact the Earth.

Mélanie Drilleau at the left and Naomi Murdoch at the right

On the other hand, astronomers estimate that 60% of them are not referenced, that is, tens of thousands of asteroids with unknown trajectories. American and European scientists are uniting their knowledge and expertise around this mission, which will take place in two phases, NASA’s DART mission in 2021, followed by ESA’s HERA mission (European Space Agency) in 2024.

An international planetary defense mission

The impact of the probe, scheduled for October 2022, will be monitored from Earth by numerous telescopes, capable of measuring whether the probe has successfully deflected the 163-meter diameter asteroid.

Hera scans the DART impact crater

In 2024, it will be the turn of the European Hera mission to embark two exploration CubeSats, Juventas and Milani, to characterize Dimorphos in details.

They will be deployed at the end of the main mission to land on the surface of the asteroid. This phase is also part of the scope of activities of the SSPA research group, which studies, in collaboration with other departments, the interactions between CubeSats and the surface of low-gravity asteroids to better understand their surface behavior and prepare for future landings and operations on small celestial bodies.

HERA releases the two cubesats Juventas and Milani

The team of researchers from the Department of Electronics Optronics and Signal (DEOS) is involved in operations and data analysis coming from Hera, and specifically on the data that will be acquired during the landing of the CubeSat ’Juventas’ and its interactions with the other cubesat.

"Our goal is to understand the physical properties of the Dimorphos asteroid to better interpret the DART impact results," explains Naomi Murdoch, Hera mission co-investigator at ISAE-SUPAERO.


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