NASA has officially announced another contract is going to Elon Musk’s SpaceX. This will see SpaceX provide launch services for the agency’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission.
While DART is a fancy title, the reality is that this will form part of earths defences against rogue asteroids that may hurdle towards the earth and threaten our existence. It’d also be pretty handy to ‘redirect’ asteroids that were heading towards any critical (and expensive) infrastructure in the sky, like satellites delivering internet, TV and more.
Kinetic impactor is a technique to deflect an asteroid by colliding a spacecraft with it at high speed. This mission will be the first-ever to demonstrate that capability.
With SpaceX planning missions to take humans to Mars, it’s clear they have an invested interest in resolving this threat, albeit a fairly low likelihood of a collision, the result would be devastating.
The DART mission currently is targeted to launch in June 2021 on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
By using solar electric propulsion, DART will intercept the asteroid Didymos’ small moon in October 2022, when the asteroid will be within 11 million km of Earth.
The total cost for NASA to launch DART is approximately $69 million, which includes the launch service and other mission-related costs.
Elon shared his excitement about the announcement on Twitter.