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Hera and its CubeSats speak with mission control

Written by  Thursday, 13 June 2024 10:55
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Hera and CubeSats in Maxwell chamber

ESA’s Hera asteroid mission and its two CubeSats interacted as if they were in space, within the foam pyramid-lined walls of the Agency’s Maxwell test chamber in the Netherlands. The trio communicated together, sharing data and ranging information at the same time as their Hera mothership received commands from its mission controllers at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

ESA Mission Control Darmstadt
ESA Mission Control Darmstadt

Manufactured by HPS in Germany and Romania, Hera’s High Gain Antenna boosts its X-band signal more than 4000-fold in order to reach distant Earth. The S-band inter-satellite links connecting Hera and its CubeSats are much weaker, comparable to domestic wifi.

Based on software-defined radio, these inter-satellite links – supplied by Tekever in Portugal with antennas from Anywaves in France – do double duty: not only exchanging data with Hera, which serves as a relay back to Earth, but also supplying ranging information, letting the trio know where they are at any one time relative to each other, minimising any risk of collision.

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