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ESA Hera asteroid mission: HyperScout H delivered and undergoing spacecraft-level testing

HyperScout H, one of the latest versions of cosine’s hyperspectral imagers, has achieved significant milestones. It has been delivered to the European Space Agency (ESA), integrated into the OHB satellite, and undergone environmental testing in preparation for the Hera mission launching in October 2024. After successful performance and environmental testing at payload level, the advanced hyperspectral imager, integrated in the Hera spacecraft, underwent acoustic and vibration testing at ESA’s ESTEC facilities in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. These tests ensure that our instrument will function correctly in space in order to aid in analyzing the impact left by NASA’s DART mission on asteroid Dimorphos.

While HyperScout instruments have most commonly been used in orbit for Earth observation, the origin of the instrument and hyperspectral technology at cosine comes from planetary science. For the cosine Remote Sensing development team, this mission may feel like a return to our roots. The hyperspectral measurements provided by HyperScout H will play a crucial role in characterizing the composition of the asteroid surface and the dynamics of the impact, enhancing our understanding of asteroids and of their deflection techniques.

The complexity of this mission certainly represents one of the main challenges for cosine. HyperScout H has been adapted to survive the deep space context in which it will be operated.

A strong preparation

Thermal vacuum and vibration testing at payload level have been performed to check HyperScout thermo-mechanical behaviour and to assess the payload quality against workmanship and material defects, and verify the instrument’s optical performance in the relevant environment. The HyperScout-H instrument successfully completed both testing campaigns according to specifications. Optical performance characterization campaigns, including image quality, spectral and radiometric characterizations, were performed in our state-of-art 1000 m2 optical cleanroom facilities in Sassenheim in the Netherlands.

After the environmental and performance testing campaigns payload level, HyperScout H was delivered to ESA on 15 June 2023.

HyperScout was then integrated onto the OHB spacecraft payload deck without a hitch, and is currently undergoing environmental testing at spacecraft level. The vibration testing campaign has been performed at the ESTEC Test Centre’s 640kN QUAD shaker, and the acoustic testing campaign at the Large European Acoustic Facility at the ESTEC Test Centre in the Netherlands. This is Europe’s largest and most powerful sound system.

Hera’s cubic spacecraft displayed during ESA’s Open Days at ESTEC (image credits: ESA)

Pierluigi Foglia Manzillo, cosine’s project manager, says: “the delivery of the HyperScout-H flight model and its successful integration in the HERA spacecraft are remarkable goals reached after more than two years of very hard work. This success was possible thanks to the commitment and perseverance of a large team of talented professionals. It has been my pride and privilege to lead them in this effort and I would like to express once again my gratitude for their dedication.”

The intense campaign at spacecraft level will continue to be prepared for the launch in October 2024.

A well-understood planetary defense technique

Previously, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft collided with asteroid Dimorphos on September 26, 2022, marking humanity’s first intentional change in the trajectory of a celestial object and the first full-scale demonstration of asteroid deflection technology.

In the follow-up space mission named Hera, ESA will send a spacecraft back to Dimorphos to perform a detailed post-impact survey that will turn this grand-scale experiment into a well-understood and repeatable planetary defense technique.

While doing so, Hera will also demonstrate multiple novel technologies: “with the Hera mission we will be able to demonstrate the functionalities of the cosine’s HyperScout H, and its ability to gather crucial scientific data to help scientists and future mission planners better understand asteroid compositions and structures”, commented Dr Marco Esposito, Managing Director of cosine Remote Sensing.

(Image credits: ESA)

About cosine

cosine is a leading worldwide company in the development of innovative measurement solutions from space, such as Silicon Pore Optics and remote sensing instrumentation with onboard analytics. We combine physics and technology to bring out-of-the-box solutions to our clients. We have been developing and delivering innovative measurement systems for space and industrial applications since 1998. Our company operates 1,000 m2 of cleanrooms and high-tech assembly facilities to build and test the systems we produce for customers at our headquarters in Sassenheim, The Netherlands.

Read more about our HyperScout product line.

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