Asteroid Deflection Mission Just Moved into the Final Design and Assembly Phase

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Within near-Earth house, there are over 18,000 asteroids whose orbit often brings them near Earth. Over the course of thousands and thousands of years, a few of these Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) – which vary from just a few meters to tens of kilometers in diameter – could even collide with Earth. It is because of this that the ESA and different house companies around the globe are engaged in coordinated efforts to routinely monitor bigger NEOs and observe their orbits.

Artist’s impression of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft dashing towards the smaller of the 2 our bodies within the Didymos asteroid system. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

In addition, NASA and different house companies have been growing counter-measures in case any of those objects stray too near our planet sooner or later. One proposal is NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), the world’s first spacecraft particularly designed to deflect incoming asteroids. This spacecraft lately moved into the final design and assembly phase and can launch to house within the subsequent few years.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) was designed and constructed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL), with assist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), and Johnson Space Center (JSC). This mission will check the kinetic impactor method, which consists of placing an asteroid to shift its orbit and deflect it away from Earth – thus demonstrating our capability to guard our planet from a possible impact.

At current, the DART mission’s launch window ranges from late December 2020 to May 2021. Once it reaches house, DART will rendezvous with the binary asteroid often known as Didymos (Greek for “twin”), which consists of Didymos A – which measures about 800 meters (half a mile) in diameter – and the moonlet Didymos B, which orbits A and is about 161.5 meters (530 ft) in diameter.

The DART spacecraft can be counting on the NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster – Commercial (NEXT-C), a photo voltaic electrical propulsion (SEP) system just like what the Dawn spacecraft used to get to the Main Asteroid Belt.  This thruster system is not going to solely cut back the general weight of the spacecraft (which reduces the prices of launching into house), it is going to additionally enable for a significant diploma of flexibility with the mission timeline and launch window.

Once in house, DART will regularly spiral out past the orbit of the Moon to flee Earth’s gravitational pull after which fly in the direction of Didymos. It will intercept Didymos B in early October 2022, when the asteroid system can be inside 11 million kilometers (6.eight million mi) of Earth. At this distance, ground-based telescopes and planetary radar will be capable to observe and measure the change in momentum imparted to the moonlet.

Using an onboard focusing on system developed by the JHUAPL, DART will then goal itself at Didymos B and strike the smaller body at a pace of about 5.95 km/s (3.7 mps). Both the spacecraft and ground-based observatories will then confirm that Didymos B has been pushed off track.

DART will launch between December 2020 and May 2021 and use the NEXT-C SEP engine to rendezvous with Didymos. Credit: NASA

As Andrew Rivkin, a who co-leads the DART investigation with the JHUAPL’s Andrew Cheng, stated in a current JHUAPL press release:

“With DART, we want to understand the nature of asteroids by seeing how a representative body reacts when impacted, with an eye toward applying that knowledge if we are faced with the need to deflect an incoming object. In addition, DART will be the first planned visit to a binary asteroid system, which is an important subset of near-Earth asteroids and one we have yet to fully understand.”

In brief, this check will enable scientists from around the globe to find out the effectiveness of the kinetic impact method as an asteroid mitigation technique. However, crucial software relating to planetary protection remains the power to trace objects and problem early warnings of any potential shut flybys of Earth.

The DART mission is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at Marshall Space Flight Center, as a part of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO). Established in 2016, the PDCO is accountable for finding, monitoring and characterizing potentially hazardous asteroids and comets, issuing warnings about doable impacts, and aiding with plans for government-led responses to precise impact threats.

Further Reading: JHUAPL, NASA

Source: Universe Today, by Matt Williams.


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