NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, the world’s first planetarydefensetest mission, is scheduled to launch early Wednesday morning. 

The company stated the mission will assist decide if deliberately crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid is an efficient approach to change the asteroid’s course.


DART, which is focusing on an asteroid that isn’t a menace to Earth, is set to launch no sooner than 1:20 a.m. EST on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

The spacecraft – touring at a pace of roughly 6.6 kilometers per second – is headed for the small moonlet asteroid Dimorphos, which orbits a bigger companion asteroid known as Didymos.

Illustration of NASA’s DART spacecraft and the Italian Space Agency’s (ASI) LICIACube prior to influence on the Didymos binary system.
(Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins, APL/Steve Gribben)

The intentional crash will barely change the asteroid’s orbit inside the Didymos binary asteroid system in late September 2022, when the Didymos system is inside 11 million kilometers of Earth.

“The Didymos system is the ideal candidate for DART because it poses no actual impact threat to Earth, and scientists can measure the change in Dimorphos’ orbit with ground-based telescopes,” NASA stated in a media advisory. 

Although no identified asteroid bigger than 140 meters in measurement has a big probability to hit Earth for the subsequent 100 years, solely about 40% of these asteroids have been discovered as of October 2021.

“DART will be the first demonstration of the ‘kinetic impactor’ technique in which a spacecraft deliberately collides with a known asteroid at high speed to change the asteroid’s motion in space,” Lindley Johnson, NASA’s Planetary Defense Officer, said in a statement. “This technique is thought to be the most technologically mature approach for mitigating a potentially hazardous asteroid, and 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.”


According to the company, the kinetic influence will show {that a} spacecraft can autonomously navigate to a goal asteroid and kinetically influence it. The scientists will use Earth-based telescopes to measure the results of the influence on the asteroid system, main to enhanced modeling and predictive capabilities. 

The DART spacecraft is aided by an onboard digital camera named DRACO and autonomous navigation software program.

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Engineers additionally outfitted the spacecraft with NASA’s NEXT-C ion propulsion system, designed to improve efficiency and gasoline effectivity for deep-space missions, and a flat, slotted high-gain antenna for environment friendly communication between Earth and the spacecraft. 

Its two Roll Out Solar Arrays (ROSA) will present the solar energy wanted for the electrical propulsion system when launched and the Italian Space Agency’s miniature satellite LICIACube is designed to seize photos of DART’s kinetic influence and its quick aftereffects.

The DART mission is led by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and managed below NASA’S Solar System Exploration Program and the Science Mission Directorate’s Planetary Science Division.

If climate or different points stop a launch on the primary night time, the workforce may have one other alternative on the subsequent day, and subsequent launch makes an attempt can happen via February 2022. 

“I’m both amazed and grateful that DART has gone from a twinkle in the eye to a spacecraft in final preparation for launch within 11 years,” stated Andy Cheng, DART investigation workforce lead at APL and the person who got here up with the thought of DART. “What made it possible was a great team that overcame all the challenges of building a spacecraft to do something never done before.”