SpaceX has enjoyed a lot of success in recent months, and it appears that the company is on a roll. The Falcon Heavy rocket completed its first commercial flight, and great news seems to have arrived before the launch took place. NASA awarded SpaceX a contract for the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (also known as DART) project, which will be launched with the help of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for $69 million.
The initiative has been designed to be quite cost-effective, with the overall bill reaching less than $250 million. The main aim is to make the mission lightweight and speedy. The Falcon 9 rocket will carry the spacecraft and an Italian cubesat across a distance of approximately 11 million kilometers ( or seven million miles), to a binary asteroid called Didymos. The mission should prove that DART can deviate dangerous asteroids which follow a high-threat trajectory.
NASA gives $69 million to SpaceX to launch the DART mission
According to the current plan the Falcon 9 rocket will be launched in June 2021, with an estimated arrival date of October 2022. Upon arrival, DART will hit Didymos-B, which is the smaller of the two asteroids, at a speed of 6 k/s (or 3.7 miles per second). It is estimated that the force of the impact will be on par with that of approximately 2.5 tons of TNT. Researchers will measure the effect of the impact, as they attempt to calculate the amount of kinetic energy which is required to modify the orbit of a smaller object around a larger one.
Some estimations suggest that the orbit will be modified by approximately 1%. While the change doesn’t seem to be too impressive is thought that many terrestrial telescopes will be able to measure the difference. If the test is successful, it will pave the way towards the development of superior devices which could be used to save the world from the potential threats of an imminent collision.