Just minutes before SpaceX began its commercial launch debut with the launch of Falcon Heavy, NASA announced that it had received an order for its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, Falcon 9 for a low cost of 69 Millions of dollars should be started.
The DART mission is said to cost less than $ 250 million and to be as light and fast as possible. She will use a special Falcon 9 to send the ~ 600 kg spacecraft and her Italian companion cube to approximately $ 11 million miles to Didymos binary asteroid. The ultimate goal of DART is to effectively demonstrate both the technologies and the physics that could be used in the future to protect Earth from asteroids known to be on a collision course.
With everything going as planned during the upcoming DART design review and hardware integration milestones, Falcon 9 could launch the spacecraft in June 2021 towards the Didymos Asteroid System to arrive in October 2022. This "arrival" would mean that DART Didymos-B – the smaller of the pair at a distance of 163 m (535 feet) – with a relative speed of more than 6 km / s (3.7 mi / s) influenced. Didymos nicknamed Didymos-B effectively encircled Didymos-A. At this speed, the ~ 600 kg probe produces an impact with an equivalent explosive force of nearly two and a half metric tons by TNT, the purpose of which is to determine to what extent the mere kinetic energy of impact can alter the orbit of a small body around the main asteroid.
Spacecraft mission manager estimates estimate Didymoon's orbital orbit will shift by about 1%, as measured by the time Didymos-A requires in orbit, from ~ 11.9 hours to ~ 11.8 hours at 12, 0 hours. This is a very small change, which theoretically should be easily measurable with telescopes on Earth, although Didymoon has estimated to have a mass of about 3.5 million tons, about seven million times heavier than DART. In short, NASA will functionally bombard an asteroid moon to see if humans can possibly use kinetic impactors to free threatening space objects years or even decades in advance from that trajectory.
Despite the inherently destructive single use that DART's impactor status gives, the current plan is thankfully an Italian Cubesat known as the LICIACube. The little copassenger is deployed two days before impact to fully exploit the scientific value of DART's death with high-quality photos of the event and its consequences. LICIACube will be traveling at the same speed and therefore unable to launch the Asteroid system, but a European Space Agency (ESA) mission known as Hera intends to do just that in the mid-2020s to teach Didymos and better to describe the US crater (hopefully) from DART.
Apart from the mission itself, DART serves as a technology demonstration platform for NASA. It will be the first use of the NEXT-C ion propulsion and NASA-launched vehicles
For the NASA launch contract for SpaceX, the agency pays only 69 million US dollars, just under 10% over the minimum price of Falcon 9 of 62 million US dollars. It can be assumed that the time of the award of the contract – days after SpaceX abruptly dropped an official protest by the ULA, which won a NASA deal worth around $ 150 million – may not be the case
With a weight of only ~ 600 kg wet DART could eventually come with additional cassette units for Falcon 9 on the market. However, there is a precedent of NASA-TESS (360 kg) and Taiwan
Take a look at the Teslarati newsletters For timely updates, on-site prospects, and unique insights into SpaceX's rocket launch and recovery processes