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HandWiki. AIDA (Mission). Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 16 April 2024).
HandWiki. AIDA (Mission). Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed April 16, 2024.
HandWiki. "AIDA (Mission)" Encyclopedia, (accessed April 16, 2024).
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HandWiki. "AIDA (Mission)." Encyclopedia. Web. 01 November, 2022.
AIDA (Mission)

The Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission is a proposed pair of space probes which will study and demonstrate the kinetic effects of crashing an impactor spacecraft into an asteroid moon. The mission is intended to test and validate impact models of whether a spacecraft could successfully deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. The original plan called for a European spacecraft, the Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM), to operate in synergy with a large NASA impactor called Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) and observe the immediate effects of the impact. AIM was cancelled in 2016 when Germany was unable to fund its portion, and after some backlash within ESA, AIM was replaced in 2018 with a smaller spacecraft called Hera that will launch five years after DART to orbit and study the crater on the asteroid. Hera will also deploy Europe's first CubeSats in deep space for close-up asteroid surveying: Juventas and Milani. DART is currently planned to impact in 2022 in the small moon of asteroid 65803 Didymos, while Hera will arrive at Didymos in 2027, five years after DART's impact.

deflection dart#39s aida

1. History

Initially, Hera's role was to be realized by a much larger spacecraft called Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM),[1] that would have observed the plume, the crater, and the freshly exposed material to provide unique information for asteroid deflection, science and mining communities. In December 2016, the European Space Agency (ESA) cancelled the development of the AIM spacecraft after Germany decided to fund the ExoMars project only.[2] Germany offered to cover only 35 million of the 60 million needed for the AIM portion to continue,[2] and this was not enough to continue development.[3] Had AIM been developed, its notional requirements in 2012 were:[4][5]

  • an asteroid lander (based on the German MASCOT heritage) for in-situ measurements
  • a thermal infrared imager to discriminate different surface properties like rocks or granular surfaces
  • a monostatic high frequency radar to obtain information on the structure of the asteroid's surface
  • a bistatic low frequency radar (on the orbiter and on the lander) to allow a view inside the asteroid and obtain data on its inner structure
  • two interplanetary CubeSats[6][7]
  • deep-space optical communication.

Under the original proposal, AIM would have launched in October 2020, and DART in July 2021. AIM would have orbited the larger asteroid and studied the composition of it and its moon. DART would then impact the asteroid's moon in October 2022, during a close approach to Earth.[8] AIM would have studied the asteroid's strength, surface physical properties and internal structure, as well as measured the effect on the asteroid moon's orbit around the larger asteroid.

Infographic showing the effect of DART's impact on the orbit of Didymos B while deployment of italian LICIACube.

Nevertheless, NASA has continued development of the DART mission to 65803 Didymos, and plans to measure the effects of the impact from ground-based telescopes,[9][10] and from an Italian CubeSat DART will bring along. Following AIM's cancellation, ESA director Jan Wörner stated his intentions to revive the European mission in some form.[9] Etienne Schneider, Luxembourg's deputy prime minister, expressed regret at AIM's cancellation, and commented that his country would continue to advocate for the realization of the mission.[11]

1.1. Status

By March 2018, Hera proposal was in Phase B1, where the preliminary design was being drawn up. On 7 January 2019, the Hera team announced the selection of two CubeSats to piggyback on the mission: APEX and Juventas. ESA officials approved Hera in November 2019 for a 2024 launch.[12] In September 2020 ESA awarded a contract covering the detailed design, manufacturing, and testing of Hera.[13] In this occasion the APEX CubeSat is also substituted by the Milani one, named after the late Andrea Milani,[14][15] distinguished professor and leading asteroid scientist.

LICIACube CubeSat a companion satellite of Dart Spacecraft.

The Italian Space Agency (ASI) decided in 2018 to contribute to NASA a secondary spacecraft called LICIA (Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids), a 6-unit CubeSat that will piggyback with DART will separate shortly by kicking out of a spring-loaded box situated on DART spacecraft at roughly 2.5 miles per hour, 10 days before impact to acquire images of the ejecta as it drifts past the asteroid.[16][17][18][19]

LICIACube is equipped with two optical cameras, dubbed LUKE (LICIACube Unit Key Explorer) and LEIA (LICIACube Explorer Imaging for Asteroid). These will capture scientific data and inform the microsatellite's autonomous system by finding and tracking the asteroid throughout the encounter.

2. Collaboration

The AIDA mission is a joint international collaboration of the European Space Agency (ESA), the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Côte d'Azur Observatory (OCA), NASA, and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL).[8]

The miniature lidar instrument on board Hera will be provided by a consortium of teams from Portugal, Poland , and Ireland.[20] Two CubeSats will be deployed by Hera while at Didymos:[21] The Milani CubeSat is being developed by Italy, Czech Republic, Finland .[22][23] The Juventas CubeSat is being developed by GomSpace and GMV's Romanian division.[24]

Along with surveying DART's impact crater, Hera may also carry a Japanese impactor that would be a replica of the Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI), on board the Hayabusa2 asteroid sample return mission.[1] NASA's DART will bring along a 6U CubeSat called LICIA which is being developed by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) to image the ejecta plume.[16][17][18]

3. Hera

Hera is the European component of the ESA–NASA AIDA mission. The Hera spacecraft, approved on 29 November 2019,[12] will focus on key measurements to validate impact and asteroid deflection models such as the detailed characterisation of the impact crater made by the DART impactor.[25] Hera will also measure the DART impact outcome, such as change in the binary system orbit,[25] and will enable detailed characterisation of the Dimorphos volume and surface properties, as well as measure the volume and morphology of the DART impact crater.[26]

The baseline payload of Hera is still in flux, and it includes a camera, a miniaturized lidar and two 6U CubeSats dedicated to asteroid characterisation. The spacecraft design allows for 40 kilograms (88 lb) of additional payload mass, including the Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI) proposed by Japan's space agency JAXA. Other options, such as a small lander, are being considered.[25] Hera will be launched on an Ariane 6 in 2024.[12]

3.1. Proposed Payload

The notional payloads on Hera are:[1][5][20]

  • Asteroid Framing Camera to obtain information on the dynamics of a binary asteroid and physical characteristics.[27]
  • Lidar laser altimeter to measure the shapes of the two bodies and constrain the mass of the asteroid's moon.[27]
  • Thermal imager[27]
  • Milani is a 6-unit CubeSat carrying the ASPECT visual and near-IR imaging spectrometer and VISTA for dust characterization. Milani will study the binary system surface composition and perform technology demonstration experiments related to the Inter-Satellite Link (ISL) and autonomous optical navigation. The CubeSat will operate for 3-6 months in the vicinity of the system.[28]
  • Juventas is a 6-unit CubeSat carrying a camera and a low-frequency radar (JuRa), for determining the internal structure of Dimorphos.[29][30] It will operate for 3–6 months near the asteroid.[31] At the end of its mission, it will attempt a landing on the surface of Dimorphos to obtain close-up data.[31]
  • An optional impactor may also be carried by Hera.[20] It would be a replica of the Japan's Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI) on board the Hayabusa2 asteroid sample return mission.[1][20] By performing a secondary impact (the primary impact being DART's), a comparison of the effects posed by two collisions of different nature on the same asteroid can be realized, helping validate numerical impact algorithms and scaling laws.[20]


Dart Mission patch.
Dart Spacecraft in Launch Configuration.

DART or Double Asteroid Redirection Test is a 500 kilograms (1,100 lb) impactor that hosts a single camera, Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for OpNav (DRACO) to support autonomous guiding to impact the moon of (Didymos B) through its center.[32] It also carries an Italian-built cubesat called LICIACube that will be released pre-impact to image the event.[33] It is estimated that the impact of the 500 kilograms (1,100 lb)[34] DART at 6 kilometres per second (3.7 mi/s)[10] will produce a velocity change on the order of 0.4 mm/s, which leads to a small change in the orbit of the Didymos B, but over time, it leads to a large change in the orbital position (or orbital phase).[4][5][8]

5. Mission Design

AIDA will target 65803 Didymos, a binary asteroid system in which one asteroid is orbited by a smaller one. The primary asteroid is about 800 metres (2,600 ft) in diameter; its small satellite is about 150 metres (490 ft) in diameter in an orbit about 1.1 km from the primary. Didymos is not an Earth-crossing asteroid, and there is no possibility that the deflection experiment could create an impact hazard to Earth.[5]

The impact of the 300 kilograms (660 lb) DART spacecraft at 6.25 km/s will produce a velocity change on the order of 0.4 mm/s, which leads to a significant change in the mutual orbit of these two objects, but only a minimal change in the heliocentric orbit of the system.[4][5][8] AIDA will provide a great benefit obtaining the size of the resulting impact crater in addition to the momentum transfer measurement, as the effects of porosity and strength of the target are needed to calculate the momentum transfer efficiency.[5][8]

Schematic showing the progress of the mission. In the current proposal AIM is replaced with Hera, there is no MASCOT, and the CubeSats are now envisioned to be 6U instead of 3U.

DART is currently planned to impact in 2022 on the small moon of asteroid Didymos, while Hera will arrive at Didymos in 2027, five years after DART's impact, so in order to maximize scientific outcome, the AIDA team proposes to delay DART's launch so that Hera would arrive at the asteroid first, enabling it to study DART's impact, the plume, the crater, and the freshly exposed material.[1] While most of the initial objectives of AIDA would still be met if Hera arrives after DART, as a drawback data from direct observation of the impact and ejecta will not be obtained.[1]

Proposed secondary spacecraft for AIDA
Host spacecraft Secondary spacecraft Remarks
  • By the Italian Space Agency
  • 6U CubeSat
  • LUKE (LICIACube Unit Key Explorer) Camera and LEIA (LICIACube Explorer Imaging for Asteroid) Camera
Hera Juventas[29][31]
  • By GomSpace and GMV
  • 6U CubeSat orbiter
  • Camera, JuRa monostatic low-frequency radar,[30] accelerometers, and gravimeter [27]
  • Will attempt to land on the asteroid surface[27][31]
  • By Italy/Czech/Finnish consortium
  • 6U CubeSat orbiter
  • VIS/Near-IR spectrometer, volatile analyzer
  • Will characterize Didymos and Dimorphos surface composition and the dust environment around the system
  • Will perform technology demonstration experiments
  • By JAXA
  • Optional[1][20]


  1. Michel, Patrick; Kueppers, Michael; Sierks, Holger; Carnelli, Ian (26 April 2017). "European component of the AIDA mission to a binary asteroid: Characterization and interpretation of the impact of the DART mission". Advances in Space Research 62 (8): 2261–2272. 18 December 2017. doi:10.1016/j.asr.2017.12.020. 
  2. ExoMars Rover Gets Funding Despite Schiaparelli Mars Lander Crash. Alixandra Caole Vila, Nature World News. 7 December 2016.
  3. NASA presses ahead with asteroid mission despite ESA funding decision. Jeff Foust, Space News. 13 December 2016
  4. Cheng, A.F.; Michel, P.; Reed, C.; Galvez, A.; Carnelli, I. (2012). "DART: Double Asteroid Redirection Test". European Planetary Science Congress 2012. EPSC Abstracts. 
  5. Michel, P.; Cheng, A.; Carnelli, I.; a. Rivkin, C.; Galvez, A.; Ulamec, S.; Reed, C. (February 2015). "AIDA: Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment Mission Under Study at ESA and NASA". Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur 1829: 6008. Bibcode: 2015LPICo1829.6008M. Retrieved 2015-03-29. 
  6. Cubesat Companions for ESA's Astroid [sic] Mission. Source: ESA. November 2, 2015.
  7. Lasagni Manghi, Riccardo; Modenini, Dario; Zannoni, Marco; Tortora, Paolo (2018). "Preliminary orbital analysis for a Cube Sat mission to the Didymos binary asteroid system". Advances in Space Research 62 (8): 2290–2305. doi:10.1016/j.asr.2017.12.014. Bibcode: 2018AdSpR..62.2290L.
  8. Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment (AIDA) study .
  9. Foust, Jeff (February 15, 2017). "NASA presses ahead with asteroid mission despite ESA funding decision". SpaceNews. 
  10. Andone, Dakin (July 25, 2017). "NASA unveils plan to test asteroid defence technique". CNN. 
  11. Henry, Caleb (February 15, 2017). "Luxembourgian minister unwilling to let ESA asteroid mission die without a fight". SpaceNews. 
  12. Hera mission is approved as ESA receives biggest ever budget. Kerry Hebden, Room Space Journal. 29 November 2019.
  13. "Industry starts work on Europe’s Hera planetary defence mission". 15 September 2020. 
  14. "Andrea Milani (1948–2018)". 29 November 2018. 
  16. Asteroids have been hitting the Earth for billions of years. In 2022, we hit back. Andy Rivkin, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. September 27, 2018.
  17. Kretschmar, Peter; Küppers, Michael (20 December 2018). "The CubeSat Revolution" (PDF). ESA. 
  18. Double Asteroid Redirection Test: The Earth Strikes Back. Elena Adams; Daniel O'Shaughnessy; Matthew Reinhart, etal. 2019 IEEE Aerospace Conference; 2-9 March 2019. doi:10.1109/AERO.2019.8742007 Quote: "In addition, DART is carrying a 6U CubeSat provided by Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI). The CubeSat will provide imagery documentation of the impact, as well as in situ observation of the impact site and resultant ejecta plume".
  19. DART Impact Ejecta Simulation and Visualization for Fly-Along CubeSat Operational Planning. Fahnestock, E.; Yu, Y.; Cheng, A. F. Astronomy Abstract Service; December 2018.
  20. Carnelli, Ian (11 October 2017). "The Hera Mission Study". ESA. 
  21. Carnelli, Ian (31 January 2018). "Status of AIM/Hera". ESA. 
  22. "Missione Hera, Tyvak Int. realizzerà il cubesat “Andrea Milani”". 16 September 2020. 
  24. "CubeSats joining Hera mission to asteroid system". Space Daily. January 8, 2019. 
  25. The Hera mission: European component of the ESA-NASA AIDA mission to a binary asteroid. Michel, Patrick; Küppers, Michael; Carnelli, Ian. 42nd COSPAR Scientific Assembly. Held 14-22 July 2018, in Pasadena, California, USA, Abstract id. B1.1-42-18
  26. Raducan, Sabina D.; Collins, Gareth S.; Davison, Thomas M. (1 May 2019). "Numerical modelling of the DART impact and the importance of the Hera mission" (PDF). Washington DC. 
  27. Exploration of the binary asteroid 65803 Didymos by the Hera mission. EPSC Abstracts. Vol. 13, EPSC-DPS2019-583-1, 2019. EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019. 15-20 September 2019.
  28. Ferrari, Fabio; Franzese, Vittorio; Pugliatti, Mattia; Giordano, Carmine; Topputo, Francesco (15 March 2021). "Preliminary mission profile of Hera's Milani CubeSat". Advances in Space Research 67 (6): 2010–2029. doi:10.1016/j.asr.2020.12.034.
  29. A Low Frequency Radar to Fathom Asteroids from Juventas Cubesat on HERA. Alain Herique, Dirk Plettemeier, Wlodek Kofman, Yves Rogez, Christopher Buck, and Hannah Goldberg. EPSC Abstracts. Vol. 13, EPSC-DPS2019-807-2, 2019. EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019.
  30. JuRa: the Juventas Radar on Hera to fathom Didymoon Alain Herique, Dirk Plettemeier, Hannah Goldberg, Wlodek Kofman, and the JuRa Team. EPSC Abstracts. Vol.14, EPSC2020-595.
  31. The Juventas CubeSat in Support of ESA's Hera Mission to the Asteroid Didymos. Hannah R. Goldberg, Özgür Karatekin, Birgit Ritter, Alain Herique, Paolo Tortora, Claudiu Prioroc, Borja Garcia Gutierrez, Paolo Martino, Ian Carnelli. 33rd Annual AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites.
  32. - 10 February 2020 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  34. DART: Home page at APL . DART Spacecraft. APL, 2017.
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