Satnews Daily
November 12th, 2016

AIMing For Didymos

OHB System AG, s subsidiary of OHB SE (Prime Standard, ISIN: DE0005936124), has successfully competed in the competition for the consolidation phase of ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM).

The purpose of the mission is to investigate and characterize a distant binary asteroid named Didymos and then to watch how it will be struck by another spacecraft launched by NASA. The data collected will help to develop planetary defense strategies for the case an asteroid is about to collide with Earth. In addition the mission will provide an excellent opportunity to validate new platform technologies for the benefit of future deep-space missions. To this end, OHB will lead the consortium with QinetiQ Space (Belgium), GMV (Spain), Antwerp Space (Belgium), Astronika (Poland), GMV-PL (Poland), Spin.Works (Portugal), GMV-PT (Portugal), and GMV-RO (Romania) which has just begun with the detailed definition work - ahead of ESAs final decision of actually implementing the mission.

Artistic rendition of AIM monitoring Didymoon after DART's impact.

The greatest challenge remains the tight schedule, as the AIM-mission must be launched in October 2020 to catch the asteroid called Didymos and its moon when they are at their closest to the Earth. “That´s why guidance and navigation form a crucial part of the mission design,” explained OHB project manager Marc Scheper. “First, the spacecraft needs to find its way across 480 million kilometers of space to its target asteroid. Then it needs to perform autonomous visual detection to manoeuver around the Didymos system, employing only a limited quantity of propellant.

The Mission will provide all the technical data required to validate impact models. “This wide array of activities now being carried out underlie how AIM is becoming more and more of a truly European project,” said Ian Carnelli, ESA´s AIM program manager. “We’ve just started our detailed definition work with industry, while the decision on full implementation of the mission will be taken at ESA’s Council of Ministers next month. This is a very important step to maintain our pace and test new approaches enabling faster mission implementation by integrating ESA, industry and payload teams.

This joint AIDA concept will also have a significant strategic benefit to both space agencies, ESA and NASA. “It is inspiring to see the progress on the AIM design as NASA continues this innovative collaboration with ESA in the joint AIDA program”, said Lindley Johnson, Program Executive of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office at NASA.

ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission, a candidate mission due for launch in 2020, will map the smaller body of the Didymos binary asteroid system down to 1 m resolution following its arrival in 2022.

This image is courtesy of ESA–

Finally, AIM and DART will both achieve substantial independent results and this collaborative endeavor will generate respectable benefits for international efforts on asteroid impact threat mitigation.

OHB’s CEO, Marco Fuchs, stated that this is a great success and honor for OHB to manage the last remaining consortium through AIM´s consolidation phase. Thus, OHB is part of the world’s first ever project to define how Earth could be protected from being hit by an asteroid. There can hardly be a more meaningful mission.

AIM must be in position before late 2022 when NASA’s double asteroid redirection test, or DART, is planned to crash into the asteroid’s moon for detailed before-and-after impact monitoring. These observations will help determine how far the DART kinetic impactor has modified the orbit of the asteroid’s moon.

The AIM and DART missions are two components of an international mission to be executed by ESA and NASA to demonstrate the ability to deflect an asteroid in a project known as Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA), which is a cost-effective mission for demonstrating different technologies to provide high-value asteroid science and benefit planetary defense planning.