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SpaceX wins contract to launch NASA's DART Asteroid Impactor

This site may earn affiliate commissions from the links on this site. Terms of Use. When but but when a dangerously large asteroid lands on a collision course for the earth, NASA wants to be ready. Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) has been developed for several years, and now it has a real launch date with the award of a contract to SpaceX. DART comes into space to blast an asteroid in June 2021 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.

DART, part of NASA's Defense Research Planning Initiative, is under development at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. One of the most promising proposals to divert an asteroid is with a kinetic percussion. If you hit the object with something tight and fast, it may be possible to tie its path away from an impact. However, there is much we do not know about asteroids, even with the latest assignment to study them closely. DART aims to learn how asteroids are likely to occur when they hit a kinetic percussion.

NASA's agreement with SpaceX comes with a much lower price tag than similar launches. It will cost the agency just $ 61

million, including all support and related services. It is cheap even according to the standards of a Falcon 9 launch, which is cheaper than competing rockets, as they are completely reusable. For example, a similar late 2020 SpaceX launch for the Sentinel-6A satellite costs NASA $ 97 million.

The assignment will use a refrigerator size against an object called Didymos. Technically, Didymos are two objects that orbit each other. Didymos A is about 2,600 meters (800m) in diameter, while Didymos B (sometimes called Didymoon) is only 560 feet (170m) above. The 2021 launch gives ion propeller driven DART enough time to rendezvous with Didymos A and B as they pass within miles of Earth in October 2022.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 ready for launch.

The impulse will collide with Didymos B at a rate of more than six kilometers per second. It should give much kinetic energy to the small asteroid, so that researchers can measure the effect of the effect by observing how its circulation changes.

No one is waiting for Didymoon to fly into deep space, but the best case is that its orbit is changing. It would indicate kinetic percussion can divert an asteroid. However, it is possible that the asteroid may deform and spread much of the kinetic energy, in which case we would need to focus on other ways to redirect asteroids.

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