Hera’s baseline payload is based on an instrument called the Asteroid Framing Camera (AFC), which will be used for guidance and navigation tasks as well as scientific observations. The AFC is an already-existing flight spare of a DLR German Aerospace Center contribution to NASA’s Dawn mission to the Asteroid Belt.
The core of the AFC is a 1024 x 1024 pixel flat panel sensor, fitted with a telescope, a filter wheel providing a panchromatic filter and seven colours in the visible and near-infrared plus an electronics box containing and data processing unit and storage. The AFC’s operating wavelengths have been chosen to provide information about the composition of physical properties of the surface of Didymoon.
Dawn’s AFC has distinguished itself by returning remarkable images of Ceres, the single largest asteroid, and its mysterious bright spots. Now its sister camera will be surveying the smallest asteroid humankind as ever visited as well.
In addition Hera will be equipped with a compact lidar – or laser radar – to measure surface altimetry to support scientific mapping as well as support close-range asteroid operations. A hyperspectral imager will gather additional data on Didymoon's surface compsosition. And radio science experiments to assess Doppler shifts and other perturbations of Hera’s radio signal back to Earth, offer a way to measure Didymoon’s mass.
Hera will also carry Europe’s first deep-space CubeSats, see below. At the time of writing, Hera still has another 40 kg of payload capacity remaining, which could potentially take the shape of a high-frequency radar for measurement of subsurface properties, or a mini-lander.