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NASA’s DART Planetary Defense Mission Now Underway

DART spacecraft

NASA’s DART Planetary Defense Mission Now Underway

NASA launched its Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission on Nov. 24 via the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

DART is a planetary defense mission aimed at altering an asteroid’s trajectory through intentional kinetic impact. The goal is to obtain knowledge of how to deflect asteroids in the event that such a threat poses an impact hazard to the Earth, NASA said.

The DART spacecraft will target a small asteroid known as Dimorphos, which is part of the near-Earth binary asteroid system called Didymos.

Based on the timeline provided by NASA, the spacecraft will intercept the Didymos system between Sept. 26 and Oct. 1, 2022, and intentionally collide with the Dimorphos at a speed of roughly 4 miles per second. Researchers are hoping to measure the change in Dimorphos’ orbital period using ground-based telescopes.

LICIACube, a CubeSat aboard the DART spacecraft, will be released prior to the scheduled collision to capture images of the impact and the resulting cloud of ejected matter.

The DART mission was originally slated for launch between July 21 and Aug. 24. The launch date had to be rescheduled to November due to problems with two of the DART spacecraft’s major components: the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical-navigation and its roll-out solar arrays.

Despite the delay, officials are optimistic that the spacecraft would still arrive at its target location, as scheduled, on Oct. 22.

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Category: Space