A mission to defend Earth from asteroids will take off with Dublin spacetech

16 Sep 2020

The Didymos binary asteroid system. Image: ESA

Technology from InnaLabs will be used on-board a great space experiment to see how we might defend our planet from asteroids.

A collaborative mission involving NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) will use space navigation technology developed and built in Dublin by InnaLabs.

The Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment (AIDA) collaboration will send two independent spacecraft to Didymos, a near-Earth asteroid system comprising two asteroids orbiting each other.

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect (DART) spacecraft will take off first in July 2021. Its mission will be to collide with the smaller of the two asteroids, Dimorphos, by 2022.

Then, in 2024, the ESA’s Hera spacecraft will set out to observe the effect of this impact for further analysis.

‘It’s an extremely proud moment for the InnaLabs team’

While Didymos poses no risk to Earth, the AIDA collaboration will study how space agencies might defend against more hazardous asteroids in future.

The hope is that this great space experiment will produce a detailed post-impact survey that can be used to devise a repeatable asteroid deflection technique.

Where does InnaLabs come in?

Named after an ancient Greek goddess, the Hera spacecraft will be built by German satellite manufacturer OHB, while an international consortium led by tech multinational GMV will develop its guidance, navigation and control system.

Enterprise Ireland-backed InnaLabs develops inertial sensor technology for space missions in Earth’s orbit, including navigation accelerometers and gyroscope technology.

The ESA, OHB and GMV have chosen to use InnaLabs’ ARIETIS-NS gyroscope system for the Hera mission. ARIETIS-NS will be primarily used to support deep-space navigation.

The contract was signed at the ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Germany by ESA director of technology, engineering and quality Franco Ongaro, and OHB CEO Marco Fuchs.

“It’s an extremely proud moment for the InnaLabs team, as its technology has been selected by such space primes as OHB and GMV on the exciting new Hera mission,” said InnaLabs CEO John O’Leary.

“I would like to take the opportunity to thank ESA and Enterprise Ireland for all their support and faith shown to us in our development as an Irish space technology company. I would hope they all celebrate this recent award and congratulations to our engineering team on their success, and wish for many more in the future.”

InnaLabs claims that control of its product lifecycle allows it to create affordable, high-performing systems that deliver on cost, accuracy, robustness and lead time. While the company has offices around the world, all the research, development and manufacturing of its spacetech is conducted in Dublin.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.