NASA Launches World's First Planetary Defence Test Mission With Astroid-Bound DART Spacecraft
US space agency NASA on Wednesday (24 November) launched Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission onboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.
The DART, NASA's first flight demonstration for planetary defense, seeks to test and validate a method to protect Earth in case of an asteroid impact threat.
The spacecraft is likely to reach the binary system after a journey of nearly one year to the distant asteroid.
DART will be the world’s first planetary defense test mission, heading for the small moonlet asteroid Dimorphos, which orbits a larger companion asteroid called Didymos, and intentionally crashing into the asteroid to slightly change its orbit, NASA said in a statement.
"While neither asteroid poses a threat to Earth, DART’s kinetic impact will prove that a spacecraft can autonomously navigate to a target asteroid and kinetically impact it. Then, using Earth-based telescopes to measure the effects of the impact on the asteroid system, the mission will enhance modeling and predictive capabilities to help us better prepare for an actual asteroid threat should one ever be discovered," the US space agency said.
NASA engineers have outfitted the spacecraft with the various technologies that the mission will test, including NASA’s NEXT-C ion propulsion system that was designed to improve performance and fuel efficiency for deep-space missions, and a flat, slotted high-gain antenna for efficient communication between Earth and the spacecraft.
Besides, the spacecraft also has onboard camera DRACO (its only instrument), two roll-out solar arrays that each unfurl to 28 feet, and the Italian Space Agency’s miniature satellite LICIACube that is designed to capture images of DART’s kinetic impact and its immediate after effects.
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