NASA launches first of its kind DART Mission – All you need to know

Know what is NASA's DART Mission, its launch date, instruments, purpose, and when will DART Mission hit an asteroid?

NASA launches DART Mission, Source: AFP
NASA launches DART Mission, Source: AFP

NASA launched the first of its kind DART Mission (also known as Double Asteroid Redirection Test) on November 24, 2021, aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 1.21 am EST from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. NASA’s DART Mission is the world’s first mission to test asteroid-deflecting technology. The DART Mission is expected to crash into the moonlet Dimorphos at 15,000 mph (24,100 km/h) during the fall of 2022 between September 26 and October 1 to deflect the asteroid by a fraction. The DART payload was released from the booster minutes after the launch to embark on its 10-month long journey into deep space at about 6.8 million miles (11 million kms) away from Earth.

Also read: NASA Lucy Mission: First Spacecraft to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids

What is NASA’s DART Mission?

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission directed by NASA is the first demonstration of the kinetic impactor technique to change the motion of an asteroid in space. The target of the DART Mission is the binary near-Earth asteroid (65803) Didymos and its moonlet.

The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) has been built and developed the DART Mission’s spacecraft. The DART Mission is $330 million worth.

Launch Date

The DART spacecraft was launched on November 24, 2021. After a year since the launch, the spacecraft is expected to cross the Didymos moonlet in around late September 2022 during which the Didymos asteroid system will be within 11 million kms of Earth.

Instruments and Systems

The DART spacecraft will have an onboard camera called Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for OpNav (DRACO). It will use Roll-Out Solar Arrays (ROSA) to supply solar power for its electric propulsion system after launch. The spacecraft will be equipped with advanced autonomous navigation algorithms. The spacecraft will also test the Evolutionary Xenon Thruster – Commercial (NEXT-C) solar electric propulsion system by NASA.

NASA’s DART Mission will crash itself into an asteroid

The DART Mission’s spacecraft will use the onboard camera called Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for OpNav (DRACO) and advanced autonomous navigation algorithms during the crash.

The spacecraft will attain the kinetic impact deflection by deliberately crashing into the moonlet of the Didymos asteroid at a speed of roughly 6.6 km per second (24,140 km per hour)

How will NASA's DART Mission crash benefit?

The kinetic impact caused by the collision will aid to modify the speed of the moonlet in its orbit around the parent asteroid Didymos by a fraction of a per cent and alter the orbital period of the moonlet by several minutes. This alteration of the orbital period will be viewed and recorded by telescopes on Earth.

About Didymos asteroid system

The parent asteroid body Didymos is approximately 780-meters across and its secondary body also called moonlet is approximately 160-meters in size. Both are separated by just over a kilometer. The Didymos asteroid system is typically the size of asteroids that could pose threat to Earth.

Also read: What is NASA’s Psyche mission, which can unveil secrets of early Solar System?

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