Elon Musk’s SpaceX will launch DART (First Planetary Defense Test) for NASA: What should we do if we find a dangerous asteroid to hit Earth? There are many possible deflection techniques, ranging from extreme (a nuclear explosion) to benign (a heavy spacecraft uses gravity to nudge an asteroid off-course).
Somewhere in the middle is kinetic impactor technology. The concept is simple: slam one or more spacecraft into a speeding asteroid to change its orbit and kick Earth out of the crosshairs.
This technique works especially well if used long ago because small nudges can lead to big changes later. And that’s where DART, NASA’s double asteroid redirection test, comes into play. DART is a planetary defense-powered test of technologies to prevent an impact on Earth by a dangerous asteroid.
This will be the first demonstration of kinetic impactor technology to alter the motion of an asteroid in space. The DART mission is in Phase C, led by APL and managed under NASA’s Solar System Exploration Program at Marshall Space Flight Center.
After more than a year of separation from the launch vehicle and cruise, it will stop the moonlight of Didymos in late September 2022, when the Didymos system will be within 11 million kilometers of Earth, enabling ground-based telescopes and planetary radars. able to measure observation. Change in the speed imparted to the Moon.
The binary near-Earth asteroid (65803) is the target of the Didymos Dart demonstration. The Didymos system is an eclipsing binary as seen from Earth, meaning that Dimorphos passes in front of and behind Didymos as it orbits the larger asteroid as seen from Earth.
As a result, Earth-based telescopes can measure regular variations in the brightness of the combined Didymos system to determine the orbit of Dimorphus.
After impact, this same technique will reveal changes in Dimopros’ orbit compared to measurements before impact.
The timing of the Dart impact in autumn 2022 has been chosen to shorten the distance between Earth and Didymos to enable the highest quality telescopic observations.
Didymos will still be about 11 million kilometers (6.8 million miles) from Earth at the time of the DART impact, but telescopes around the world will be able to contribute to the global International Observation Campaign to determine the impact of the DART impact.
The Dart performance has been carefully designed. The impulse of energy that DART delivers to the Didymos binary asteroid system is short and cannot disrupt the asteroid, and Didymos’ orbit does not intersect Earth at any point in current predictions.
In addition, the change in the orbit of Dimorphos is designed to bring its orbit closer to that of Didymos. The DART mission is a demonstration of its ability to respond to a potential asteroid impact threat, should it ever be discovered.
While Didymos’ primary body is about 780 meters across, its secondary body (or “moon”) is about 160-meters in size, which is more typical for asteroids the size that could pose the most potentially significant threat to Earth.
The DART spacecraft will achieve kinetic impact deflection by intentionally crashing itself into moonlight at a speed of approximately 6.6 km/s, with the aid of an onboard camera (designated DRACO) and sophisticated autonomous navigation software.
The collision would change the Moon’s speed in its orbit around the main body by a fraction of a percent, but it would change the Moon’s orbital period by several minutes – enough to be observed and measured using telescopes on Earth.
Once launched, DART will deploy the Roll-Out Solar Arrays (ROSA) to provide the solar power needed for DART’s electric propulsion system. The spacecraft will demonstrate the NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster – Commercial (NEXT-C) solar electric propulsion system as part of its in-space propulsion.
NEXT-C is a next-generation system based on the Dawn spacecraft propulsion system and was developed at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
By using electric propulsion, DART could benefit from significant flexibility in mission timelines, demonstrating the next generation of ion engine technology, with applications for potential future NASA missions.
ESA’s HERA and NASA’s AIDA International Cooperation – HERA mission, a program in European Space Agency (ESA) space safety, and security activities, are planned to launch in 2024 and, together with the Didymos system, in 2026, approximately four times the impact of DART. year later.
During Hera’s mission, the main spacecraft and its two companion CubeSats will both conduct detailed surveys of the asteroid, with a special focus on the crater left by the Dart collision and the precise determination of the mass of Dimorphus.
Both DART and HERA team members are part of the largest international collaboration known as AIDA—Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment.
AIDA is an international collaboration between planetary defense and asteroid science researchers that will combine data from NASA’s DART missions, including ASI’s LICIACube and ESA’s HERA missions, to produce the most accurate knowledge possible from the first demonstration of asteroid deflection technology. Huh.
AIDA is a joint effort of the DART, LICIACube, and HERA teams, along with other researchers from around the world, to obtain the best possible information for planetary defense and solar system science from these groundbreaking space missions.
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