NASA’s DART Mission Launches!
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft has launched from Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. Launch time was 10:21 p.m. PST on November 23 (1:21 a.m. November 24). DART will soon be on its voyage to rendezvous with an asteroid.
DART Launch and Separation Events
A series of events occur after launch. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage main engine will cut off, followed by separation from the second stage. The second stage will ignite, followed by payload fairing jettison from the DART spacecraft about three minutes after liftoff. The second stage will cut off and then restart a few minutes later to put the satellite in the proper trajectory. About a minute later, the second stage will cutoff and DART will separate from the second stage.
NASA’s DART Spacecraft Traveling on its Own
NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft has separated from the Falcon 9 second stage and is flying on its own.
NASA’s first flight mission for planetary defense, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) seeks to test and validate a method to protect Earth in case of an asteroid impact threat. The DART mission aims to shift an asteroid’s orbit through kinetic impact – specifically, by smashing a spacecraft into the smaller member of the binary asteroid system Didymos.
The Didymos asteroid system is comprised of Didymos and its small, orbiting moonlet, Dimorphos. In 2022, DART will pummel into the latter, a boulder about 160 meters (525 feet) in diameter, and change its orbital period around Didymos by about 10 minutes.
Using ground-based telescope observations prior to and after impact, scientists will be able to compare Dimorphos’ path around Didymos to determine how much the orbit has changed.