Home Tech The Falcon 9 from SpaceX wins the launch of an asteroid attacker...

The Falcon 9 from SpaceX wins the launch of an asteroid attacker NASA

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 power adapterand the first independent use of the ROSA mechanism (Roll-Out Solar Array) (tested on top of the ISS). Even more interesting is a suggestion Transformative solar system Once planned for DART, a flexible combination of advanced solar cells (~ 33% efficiency) and mirror concentrators that could feed a spacecraft five times as much energy for a given solar field area and distance from the sun. It is unclear whether this will lead to DART's final design, but it still seems to be on the table from January 2019. According to the contracted manufacturer, the solar array of DART will produce ~ 6.6 kW, while rough estimates for the solar array will suggest an area of ​​16 m ^ 2 (170 ft ^ 2). Compared to the simplicity of the deployment mechanism and the small size of DART (~ 600kg total), this is an incredible amount of available energy.

The newest render of the NASA / APL DART spacecraft. (NASA / APL)
Prior to the first NASA payload from SpaceX, TESCO's Exoplanet Observatory, Falcon 9 B1045 comes on LC-40. (SpaceX)


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 coincidence, Regardless, SpaceX's decision to bid so low for a NASA launch signals the company's protest that ULA's contract for the mission – NASA's LUCY asteroid explorer – "is essential [expensive]"As the bid that SpaceX made.

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 Formosat-5 for SpaceX for tiny launches for small spacecraft. In addition, it is possible that DART will launch a flight-proven Falcon 9-Block 5 rocket, as NASA will likely have certified the Flight-tested SpaceX vehicles for almost every launch by 2021.

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