SpaceX Wins $69 Million Contract to Launch NASA’s DART Mission

NASA has awarded SpaceX a $69 million contract for the launch of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission, also known as the DART mission. DART will be lifted on a Falcon 9 Rocket in June 2021 at the Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, if everything goes according to the schedule.

The DART mission intends to prove that the trajectory of an asteroid can be changed – an important step that will help scientists prepare for possible asteroid collisions with Earth.

NASA’s planetary defense research initiative is now working on the DART project at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Their theory is that if you hit an object with a dense and fast spacecraft, you can alter the trajectory of an asteroid and avoid an impact with our planet. DART aims to learn more about asteroids and the way they react to a kinetic force.

The DART mission is a joint project of the ESA and Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment (AIDA). It will launch and head toward the binary asteroid Didymos. This asteroid is made of two rocks – and S-type asteroid called Didymos A (2,500 ft diameter), and Didymos B (530 ft diameter).

DART Mission Details

After SpaceX launches the spacecraft, DART will use the solar electric propulsion system to impact Didymos. The impact will take place in October 2022, when DART will hit Didymos B with high speed, at 7 million miles away from Earth. Close by, an ESA probe will take observations of the event and measure the deflection caused by the kinetic impact.

This way, scientists will learn if this approach is effective and whether their method will need to be refined. Even if the deflection will be very small, at such a great distance of Earth, such a mission could save Earth from a potential devastating impact.

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