The mission, referred to as Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), will ship a spacecraft to check crash into the near-Earth binary asteroid system referred to as Didymos, in 2022. NASA introduced Feb. 17 that this 12 months’s main launch window of July 21 to Aug. 24 is now not an choice. As an alternative, the house company is focusing on a backup window that opens Nov. 24 and runs to Feb. 15, 2022, according to a statement from NASA.
The choice to postpone the launch was made by NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) senior management following a danger evaluation of the DART project schedule. Delaying the launch of the mission is not going to have an effect on the spacecraft’s arrival at its goal, which is slated for October 2022, NASA officers mentioned.
Associated: Potentially dangerous asteroids (images)
The latest danger evaluation revealed technical points with two main components of the spacecraft, together with its fundamental instrument, the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Digicam for Optical-navigation (DRACO), and its Roll-Out Photo voltaic Arrays (ROSA). The DRACO imager must be bolstered to make sure it may well stand up to launch, whereas the photo voltaic arrays are delayed following provide chain points triggered partly by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At NASA, mission success and security are of the utmost significance, and after a cautious danger evaluation, it grew to become clear DART couldn’t feasibly and safely launch throughout the main launch window,” Thomas Zurbuchen, SMD affiliate administrator, mentioned within the assertion. “To make sure DART is poised for mission success, NASA directed the group pursue the earliest doable launch alternative through the secondary launch window to permit extra time for DRACO testing and supply of ROSA, and supply a secure working atmosphere by way of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The DART spacecraft will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Pressure Base in California. NASA is working with SpaceX and the company’s Launch Companies Program to establish the earliest doable launch alternative inside this secondary window.
DART will goal a binary asteroid system that consists of a bigger asteroid referred to as Didymos, which measures about 2,540 ft (775 meters) huge, and a smaller asteroid satellite tv for pc referred to as Dimorphos, which measures 540 ft (165 m) throughout. The mission will take a look at a brand new planetary defense approach, requiring the spacecraft to slam into Dimorphos to alter the orbital velocity of the asteroid by way of a kinetic affect. If profitable, this method may very well be used to deflect asteroids that pose a risk to Earth.
“Whereas COVID-19 was not the only issue for this delay, it has been a big and critically contributing issue for a number of points,” NASA officers mentioned within the assertion. “Testing gear earlier than launch is an important step in all missions to make sure mission success, and venture groups construct time into processing schedules to accommodate for potential delays.”
NASA’s DART mission will even carry a small satellite tv for pc referred to as Gentle Italian Cubesat for Imaging of Asteroid, or LICIACube, which was constructed by the Italian Area Company to watch the affect at Dimorphos and return pictures of the occasion to Earth. The European Area Company can also be planning a follow-up mission to Dimorphos, known as Hera, which can assess the outcomes of the DART mission and research the affect website on the asteroid. The Hera mission is predicted to launch in 2023 or 2024 and can arrive on the asteroid two years later.
Comply with Samantha Mathewson @Sam_Ashley13. Comply with us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Fb.