Will SpaceX help NASA defend Earth from asteroids

Federico Mansilla
Abril 14, 2019

DART is set to be the first space mission "to demonstrate asteroid deflection by kinetic impactor on a binary asteroid target".

NASA is paying $69 million to SpaceX for the contract, which is lower than the $95 million SpaceX charges roughly for defense contract launches. The mission will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket in 2021.

The launch will be managed out of NASA's Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center while the DART Project is conceived by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland and managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. As the DART mission will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket, it's a relatively cheaper price compared to past NASA contracts for Falcon 9 launches.

So far, the estimated cost is about $69 million, including the launch service. The mission will launch in April 2021.

NASA first detailed the DART mission back in February, but at that point, it hadn't picked a partner yet. "This contract underscores the confidence to NASA, the Falcon 9's ability to perform critical research tasks, while offering the best value launch in the industry".

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'The DART spacecraft will achieve the kinetic impact by deliberately crashing itself into the moonlet at a speed of approximately 6 km/s, with the aid of an onboard camera and sophisticated autonomous navigation software, ' NASA says.

The mission's target is one of the small moons of the asteroid Didymos.

DART will then collide with the small moonlet orbiting Didymos at the speed of 6 kilometers per second, with the goal of changing the speed of the moonlet in its orbit around the main body by a fraction of 1 percent, enough for the telescopes on Earth to record the event.

NASA plans to intercept Didymos when it's within 11 million kilometres (7 million miles) of our planet - in comparison, the moon is 240,000 miles and the sun is 93 million miles away.

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