15th November, 2021 Science and Technology
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- On November 24, at around 11.50 am (IST), NASA will launch the agency’s first planetary defense test mission named the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART).
- DART is a spacecraft designed to impact an asteroid as a test of technology.
- DART is a planetary defense-driven test of technologies for preventing an impact of Earth by a hazardous asteroid.
- DART will be the first demonstration of the kinetic impactor technique to change the motion of an asteroid in space.
- The binary near-Earth asteroid (65803) Didymos is the target for the DART demonstration.
Didymos is the twin-asteroid system Didymos is a binary near-Earth asteroid.
- The DART spacecraft will achieve the kinetic impact deflection by deliberately crashing itself into the moonlet at a speed of approximately 6.6 km/s, with the aid of an onboard camera (named DRACO) and sophisticated autonomous navigation software.
- The collision will change the speed of the moonlet in its orbit around the main body by a fraction of one percent, but this will change the orbital period of the moonlet by several minutes - enough to be observed and measured using telescopes on Earth.
- Once launched, DART will deploy Roll Out Solar Arrays (ROSA) to provide the solar power needed for DART’s electric propulsion system.
- The DART spacecraft will demonstrate the NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster – Commercial (NEXT-C)solar electric propulsion system as part of its in-space propulsion.
- NEXT-C is a next-generation system based on the Dawn spacecraft propulsion system, and was developed by NASA.
- By utilizing electric propulsion, DART could benefit from significant flexibility to the mission timeline while demonstrating the next generation of ion engine technology, with applications to potential future NASA missions.
- Hera will arrive at the Didymos system in 2027 to measure the impact crater produced by the DART collision and study the change in the asteroid’s orbital trajectory.