What Ohb Italia, Avio and Thales Alenia Space will do for the Hera mission

What Ohb Italia, Avio and Thales Alenia Space will do for the Hera mission

The Hera planetary defense mission of ESA kicks off with the signing of the contract in view of launch in 2024, on board Ohb Italia, Avio and Thales Alenia Space

Europe enters the game of planetary defense. The Hera mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) kicks off with the signing of the contract for design, production and testing.

This is an important step towards the European agency's commitment to NASA for the joint project to assess the impact and deflection of asteroids.

The first mission of our continent for planetary defense, scheduled for 2024, also boasts the contribution of the Italian industry, as underlined by the note of the Italian Space Agency (ASI). Indeed, thanks to the support of ASI, contracts for the construction of on-board systems such as the electric power system, assigned to OHB-Italia, and the pro-pulsione, assigned to Avio, were awarded.

In addition, Thales Alenia Space will supply the communication system and other key equipment to the Hera space probe.


Hera represents the European contribution to an international collaboration for the protection of the planet from cosmic impacts called Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (Aida).

During her mission Hera, named after the Greek goddess of marriage, will study the binary asteroid Didymos from close range and together with NASA's Dart (Double Asteroid Redirect Test) probe, will develop the asteroid deflection technique.


Dart, departing in 2021, is in fact destined to crash into Dimorphos, the small satellite of Didymos. Then leaving Hera, arriving in 2026, with the task of analyzing the crater originating from the impact and accurately calculating the orbital changes caused by the impact.


Two small CubeSats will also travel aboard Hera which, once released into space, will be able to fly over the surface of the asteroid closely.

The second CubeSat is Italian-led, named after Andrea Milani, professor of Orbital Mechanics at the University of Pisa.


The contract was signed yesterday by Franco Ongaro, ESA Director of Technology, Engineering and Quality, and by Marco Fuchs, CEO of the German company OHB, which leads the Hera consortium.

The signing took place at ESA's ESOC center in Germany, which will serve as mission control for Hera's 2024 launch.

The contract was awarded to a consortium led by OHB System AG of Bremen, the main contractor. Of the 17 ESA Member States contributing to the Hera mission, "Germany is at the forefront, with the task of the overall project and integration of the Hera spacecraft, the main navigation cameras, tanks, thrusters, HIGH-GAIN antenna, reaction wheels, and memory units of mass.


But Italy is the second European country for contribution to the mission. Our country is among the seven partners of the mission, alongside Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Romania and Spain. Italy contributes with the ASI and with the idea of ​​the mission, born from the mathematician and astronomer Andrea Milani, one of the leading international experts on asteroids, who died in 2018.

Italy is leading the way in building important on-board systems. This is in particular the electric power system, assigned to OHB-Italia, and the propulsion, assigned to Avio, the Colleferro company that builds the Vega launcher .

Italian then the guide of one of the two cubesats who will travel aboard Hera to then break away and fly over the surface of the asteroid.


As Il Sole 24 Ore writes , "Ohb Italia, the former Carlo Gavazzi Space which has been part of the German group Orbitale Hochtechnologie Bremen since 2017, is one of the reference realities of the Italian space industry", with a turnover "almost doubled, almost doubling 100 million euros in 2019 and the orders that have accelerated. Its order book, for high quality solutions used in space missions, exceeds 200 million euros ".

With over 200 employees, Ohb Italia is among the protagonists of the Solar Orbiter mission, the ESA probe that will photograph the upper and lower part of the Sun. Furthermore, "is at the center of the Flyeye project, the super-telescope to be installed on the Madonie protect the Earth from falling asteroids and led the construction consortium of the Prisma satellite ”.


The recent contract for Hera marks another success for Avio, the Colleferro-based company that designed and developed the Vega launcher and is the primary contractor for Arianespace, the largest launch services operator.

Protagonist of Vega 's return to space two weeks ago, two days ago Avio announced the results of the first half of 2020, which closed with a net profit of € 8.4 million, up 19% compared to the first half of 2019. However, the Colleferro group recorded revenues of € 167.9 million, down (-11%) compared to the first half of the previous year.

The decrease in revenues, the company explains, is mainly attributable to the planned phase-out of Ariane 5, only partially offset by the ramp-up of the production of Ariane 6 and by the development of the new next-generation Vega C spacecraft. inevitably delayed during the lockdown period, due to slowdowns in the reactivity of the industrial supply chain of subcontractors.

The order book also shows a slight decrease to 632 million euros (-5%, equal to – 37 million euros compared to December 2019) pending the contractualization of the research projects assigned to the 2019 ESA ministerial conference and the signing of the next batches of the Vega C and Ariane 6 launchers.


Finally, Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between the French Thales (67%) and the Italian Leonardo (33%), was selected by the prime contractor OHB and ESA, to supply the communication system as well as the air conditioning and power distribution (Pcdu) for the Hera mission.

The systems supplied by Thales Alenia Space will make it possible to control and track the vehicle from a distance of up to 500 million kilometers, to send all the information collected by Hera back to Earth. Thales Alenia Space in Spain will be responsible for the X-band communications system, leading an industrial consortium that includes Thales Alenia Space in Italy. The latter will be responsible for the state of the art Deep Space Transponder which, using a proven digital flight platform, will allow communication with the ground station.

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL https://www.startmag.it/innovazione/cosa-faranno-ohb-italia-avio-e-thales-alenia-space-per-la-missione-hera/ on Wed, 16 Sep 2020 05:44:47 +0000.