NASA wants SpaceX to work alongside for asteroid deflecting mission

14 April, 2019, 18:40 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • NASA hires SpaceX to help it crash an asteroid

The mission costs $69 million. It will be managed by NASA's Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA's DART spacecraft's launch window range begins in late December 2020 and runs through May 2021. In addition to DART, SpaceX's future launch manifest includes NASA LSP missions SWOT and Sentinel-6A.

So far, the estimated cost is about $69 million, including the launch service. Another Falcon 9 launch, the Surface Water and Ocean Topography satellite, was awarded in 2016 with a price of $112 million.

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In the mission to defend Earth from asteroids, NASA is going with SpaceX. "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". The DART Project office is located at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, and is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASAs Planetary Defense Coordination Office in Washington. According to the DART website, the probe won't reach its target until October 2022, upon which it will slam into Didymos' moon at a speed of almost 13,500 mph (6 kilometers per second). An on-board camera and autonomous navigation software will assist in the strike, which hypothetically should shift the orbiting asteroid a fraction of 1%, but enough to be measured using telescopes from Earth. To do this, the spacecraft will use an electric propulsion system to travel to the asteroid Didymos.

After launching from California's Vandenberg Air Force base atop a Falcon 9 rocket in 2021, the DART craft is expected to reach the object Didymos in October 2022, when it's 11 million kilometers (6.8 million miles) from Earth. The technique for deflecting the asteroid is known as a kinetic impaction, which sees a spacecraft at high-speed navigated into the path of the target and hopefully changing its trajectory.

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