Double Asteroid Redirection Test Current Affairs - 2019

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Spacex to Launch NASA’s Asteroid-Smashing Mission

NASA has announced that SpaceX will fly its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) planetary-defence mission. The total launch cost for NASA is estimated to be about $69 million.

DART

Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is a planned space probe that will demonstrate the kinetic effects of crashing an impactor spacecraft into an asteroid moon for planetary defense purposes. The mission is intended to test whether a spacecraft impact could successfully deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.

DART Planetary-Defense Mission

  • DART planetary-defence mission will be will launched by the Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in June 2021.
  • The spacecraft will slam into “Didymoon,” the 540-foot-wide (165 meters) satellite of the near-Earth asteroid Didymos which is located at about 4 million miles from Eart in October 2022.
  • Scientists will observe the impact with telescopes and measure the change in the Didymoon’s orbit around the asteroid.
  • Scientists hope to move it by just a fraction of a per cent off its path, which is enough to deflect any future asteroids off course since Didymos poses no threat to Earth.

DART won’t be the first spacecraft to wallop an asteroid. Earlier this month, Japan’s Hayabusa2 probe smashed a copper cannonball into the space rock Ryugu, to unearth pristine subsurface material for study.

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NASA developing first asteroid deflection mission

NASA is developing Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), the first-ever mission that will deflect a near-Earth asteroid.

The mission will help to test the systems that will allow mankind to protect the planet from potential cosmic body impacts in the future.

Key Facts

The DART will be built and managed by the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). It will be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate kinetic impactor technique.  The target for DART is an asteroid called Didymos that will have a distant approach to Earth in October 2022 and then again in 2024.

The asteroid Didymos (Greek word for twin) is an asteroid binary system that consists of two bodies: Didymos A (about 780 metres in size), and Didymos B (about 160 metres in size), smaller asteroid orbiting Didymos A. DART will impact only the smaller of the two bodies, Didymos B.

After launch, DART will fly to Didymos and use an APL- developed onboard autonomous targeting system to aim itself at Didymos B. The refrigerator-sized spacecraft will strike the smaller body at a speed about 6 km/s i.e. about nine times faster than a bullet.

Earth-based observatories will observe the impact and the resulting change in the orbit of Didymos B around Didymos A. It will allow scientists to better determine the capabilities of kinetic impact as an asteroid mitigation strategy.

Didymos asteroid system

The Didymos asteroid system has been closely studied since 2003. It has been classified as potentially hazardous asteroid. Its primary body is a rocky S-type object, with composition similar to that of many asteroids. The composition of its small companion, Didymos B is unknown, but its size is typical of asteroids that could potentially create regional effects should they impact Earth.

Kinetic impact technique

This technique involves sending one or more large, high-speed spacecraft into the path of an approaching near-earth object to shift its orbit to defend against future impact.  It works by changing the speed of a threatening asteroid by a small fraction of its total velocity. This is done well before the predicted impact so that this small velocity adds up over time to a big shift of the asteroid’s path away from Earth.

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