Kinetic impactor test
NASA Scheduled to Launch Planetary Defense Test on Asteroids
NASA is scheduled to launch on Nov. 23 its first planetary defense test mission aimed at assessing the agency’s capability to alter an asteroid’s trajectory.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test will be conducted on the small moonlet asteroid Dimorphos and its orbital companion asteroid, Didymos, neither of which poses a threat to Earth, NASA said Friday.
Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defense officer, said the test will serve as the first demonstrator of the “kinetic impactor” technique, which involves the intentional collision of a spacecraft into an asteroid to affect its motion.
He called the technique the most technologically mature approach to mitigating potentially hazardous asteroids.
“It will help planetary defense experts refine asteroid kinetic impactor computer models, giving insight into how we could deflect potentially dangerous near-Earth objects in the future,” Johnson added.
NASA said it already demonstrated kinetic impaction on a small scale with the Deep Impact mission of 2005.
The agency’s engineers worked on the new DART mission over the last year and a half, assembling an aircraft equipped with various technologies that NASA wants to test.
One of the technologies is NASA’s NEXT-C ion propulsion system designed to improve the performance and fuel efficiency for deep-space missions.
The spacecraft also has a flat, slotted high-gain antenna intended to provide efficient communications with Earth.
NASA said the spacecraft headed to the SpaceX Payload Processing Facility on Vandenberg Space Force Base near Lompoc, California, on Oct. 26.
If the launch is canceled on Nov. 23 due to bad weather or other reasons, the DART team can try again the following day.
Tags: asteroid Double Asteroid Redirection Test kinetic impactor Lindley Johnson NASA NEXT-C planetary defense space SpaceX