NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for Asteroid Redirect Test Mission

James Marshall
April 13, 2019

The best way to prepare for deflecting an asteroid is to do a test run, which is exactly what NASA has planned for its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART).

If DART is successful, then the same concept could potentially be used to nudge hazardous asteroids away from Earth before they can wreak havoc.

The potential for an asteroid apocalypse scenario has NASA concerned enough to create the DART mission, a project that sounds straight out of a sci-fi action movie.

DART's goal is to bring down the reaction time needed to thwart a catastrophic impact from a space rock hurtling toward a major city. Currently, the National Academy of Sciences predicts that it would require one to two years' warning time to deflect a smaller asteroid. The technique for deflecting the asteroid is known as a kinetic impaction, which sees a spacecraft at high-speed navigated into the path of the target and hopefully changing its trajectory. SpaceX will be handling launch duties with its Falcon 9 rocket, which will launch from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at some point in June 2021. According to the DART website, the probe won't reach its target until October 2022, upon which it will slam into Didymos' moon at a speed of almost 13,500 mph (6 kilometers per second). Assuming everything goes to plan, the spacecraft will intercept Didymos and its moon in October 2022, when the asteroid passes within 11 million kilometers of Earth.

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