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article imageNASA selects SpaceX to provide launch services for DART mission

By Karen Graham     Apr 13, 2019 in Technology
Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX has been awarded a launch services contract for NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, scheduled to take place in June 2021.
In the press release, dated April 12, 2019, NASA said DART will be the "first-ever mission to demonstrate the capability to deflect an asteroid by colliding a spacecraft with it at high speed – a technique known as a kinetic impactor."
The DART will be launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Vanderberg Air Force Base in California in June 2021. The total cost to NASA for the mission, including the launch and related services, is $69 million, reports Space News.
If all goes as expected, in October 2022, the DART spacecraft will slam into "Didymoon," a small 540-foot-wide (165 meters) satellite of the near-Earth asteroid Didymos.
A 2016 NASA animation derived from planetary radar observations  showing the orbit of  Didymoon  aro...
A 2016 NASA animation derived from planetary radar observations showing the orbit of "Didymoon" around the large asteroid, Didymos.
NASA
Telescopes here on Earth will keep watch to document how the collision will affect the smaller asteroid and its orbit around the 2,540-foot-wide (775 meter-wide) Didymos. These observations will help researchers to assess the so-called "kinetic impactor" strategy of dangerous-asteroid deflection, DART team members said.
Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission
The DART mission has been under development at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory as part of NASA’s planetary defense program. the mission will be the first of its kind to demonstrate the kinetic impact technique to change the orbit of an asteroid in space.
The DART mission is now in Phase B, led by JHU/APL and managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at Marshall Space Flight Center for NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office. DART’s primary objective is to demonstrate a kinetic impact on a small asteroid.
Schematic of the DART mission shows the impact on the moonlet of asteroid (65803) Didymos. Post-impa...
Schematic of the DART mission shows the impact on the moonlet of asteroid (65803) Didymos. Post-impact observations from Earth-based optical telescopes and planetary radar would, in turn, measure the change in the moonlet’s orbit about the parent body.
NASA
NASA’s DART spacecraft’s launch window range begins in late December 2020 and runs through May 2021. DART's intercept with Didymos' little moon is expected to occur in early October 2022, At that time Didymos and its moon will be within 11 million kilometers (6,835,083 miles) of Earth, a perfect distance for observations be telescopes.
The DART spacecraft will achieve the kinetic impact by deliberately crashing itself into the Didymoon at a speed of approximately 6 kilometers per second (3.7 miles per second), with the aid of an onboard camera and sophisticated autonomous navigation software.
"The collision will change the speed of the moonlet in its orbit around the main body by a fraction of one percent, enough to be measured using telescopes on Earth," according to NASA.
More about Spacex, dart mission, NASA, kinetic impact, Asteroid
 
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