The start took place on November 23 this year. at 22:21 local time (7:21 in Poland, CEST), from the SLC-4E launch stand at the US Space Force Vanderberg base. The carrier rocket was the two-stage Falcon 9 by SpaceX.
The payload of the mission was an unusual piece of equipment – the DART, which is essentially a 12.5 meter long (2.4 meter wide) impact probe weighing 670 kilograms. Its target is the Didymos binary asteroid system 11 million kilometers from Earth.
The mission is to test the possibility of changing the course of a potentially Earth-threatening asteroid. NASA wants, among others test the “gravity tractor” method, which consists in placing a spacecraft near a dangerous object for a long time, which will lead to a deflection of its orbit due to the additional force of attraction.
The journey of the DART probe to its destination will take nearly 10 months. For most of the mission, the spacecraft will be controlled from Earth, but for the last four hours of flight, an autonomous control system created by NASA will “target” the asteroid.
DART will also be the first spacecraft to test the new NASA NEXT-C ion engine in space, powered by solar energy.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 24, 2021
Lindley Johnson, head of NASA’s planetary defense program, previously announced that the DART mission will be the first of many planned tests to defend Earth against asteroids. While none of the asteroids identified so far pose a threat to the Earth in the foreseeable future, many objects have yet to be observed. NASA estimates that approx. 90 percent of them have been discovered. asteroids larger than 1 km in diameter, but only about 40 percent. the smaller ones. Meanwhile, a mere 150-meter asteroid would destroy a large city and cause far-reaching effects that are felt over a large area.
Prepared by: PAP / Space24