SpaceX to Launch NASA’s DART Asteroid Deflector

Sometime in early 2021, humanity will launch its first preemptive strike against an asteroid, as it attempts to find ways to shield itself from potential civilization-threatening impacts by rocks from outer space. Carrying the payload for the strike will be one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets.
DART's target, 65803 Didymos' small moon 1 photo
The announcement was made at the end of last week by the American space agency, as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy flawlessly delivered the Arabsat 6A satellite to orbit and then landed, once again making history.

The technology with which NASA plans to change the orbit of asteroids bound for Earth is called DART, an acronym that stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test. In simple terms, DART is a metal rock that we’ll throw at an asteroid powerfully enough as to slightly change its course.

The target chosen for the test is called 65803 Didymos, a binary asteroid system comprising the main 800 meters body and a smaller 150-meter moon. DART will head for the moon of the binary, purposefully slam into the small asteroid at a speed of about 6 km/s (13,400 mph) and hope to change its course by a fraction of one percent.

That’s not much, but it's enough to be detected from Earth and prove the concept works.

NASA’s announcement of its decision was received with excitement at SpaceX’s headquarters.

“SpaceX is proud to continue our successful partnership with NASA in support of this important interplanetary mission. This award underscores NASA’s confidence in Falcon 9’s capability to perform critical science missions while providing the best launch value in the industry,” the company said in a statement.

NASA says the entire cost of the DART mission, including “the launch service and other mission-related costs” is estimated at $69 million.

The encounter between the suicidal DART and Didymos will occur in October 2022, at a distance of 11 million km from Earth (6.8 million miles).

press release

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