Tonight, November 23 at 10:21 p.m. Pacific Time (November 24 at 1:21 a.m. Eastern Time) SpaceX will launch NASA’s first-of-its-kind planetary defense mission, known as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). The DART demonstration mission aims to test whether a spacecraft is capable of changing an asteroid’s orbital speed by purposely smashing into it at a speed of approximately 15,000 miles per hour. DART will crash into a small binary asteroid called ‘Dimorphos’, that orbits a larger asteroid named ‘Didymos’. These asteroids pose no threat to Earth, the agency is just testing the technology to determine if it would be helpful in case an Earth-threatening asteroid was discovered in the future. “We’re smashing into an asteroid,” NASA’s Launch Services Program senior launch director Omar Baez said during a press conference. “I can’t believe we’re doing that!”
LIVE NOW: Tune in as #DARTMission leaders share the details of our upcoming launch to test asteroid deflection technology. Get to know the mission https://t.co/TJn4hq8QKW— NASA (@NASA) November 21, 2021
Have asteroid questions? Send them over with #AskNASA! https://t.co/4VbGZo2c2u
It will be the first time SpaceX launches a spacecraft towards an asteroid. “This is just the coolest mission. Thank you all for enabling SpaceX to be a part of a really important planetary defense mission,” SpaceX Director of Civil Satellite Missions Julianna Scheiman told NASA leaders.
Day and night, we search the skies for asteroids that could pose a threat to Earth. But what if we found one? @JHUAPL’s Justyna Surowiec helps tell the story of #DARTMission, our first test of planetary defense: https://t.co/hiAfCp3qrp pic.twitter.com/0mbGzPOmHx— NASA (@NASA) November 23, 2021
A twice-flown Falcon 9 rocket will liftoff to propel the DART spacecraft to orbit from Launch Complex-4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The DART vehicle is destined to smash into the Dimorphos asteroid in around 10 months. It will arrive to the binary asteroid system sometime between September 26, 2022 to October 2, 2022. The first-stage booster that will support tonight’s mission is identified as B1067-3; It previously launched NASA’s Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Earth observation satellite and one Starlink mission. Now, it will liftoff a third time during the DART mission. SpaceX is currently the only company in the world that has the capacity to recover orbital-class rockets to reuse. Rocket reusability enables the company to offer cost-effective launch services compared to competitors. The DART mission is costing NASA $330 million in total, with SpaceX earning $69 million for launch services.
Soon after deploying the DART spacecraft inside of Falcon 9’s payload fairing to orbit, Falcon 9’s first-stage booster will reenter Earth’s atmosphere to land on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ autonomous droneship, that us stationed in the Pacific Ocean. NASA shared photographs of the rocket - it wears scorch marks like a badge of honor from reentering Earth’s rough atmosphere twice before, pictured below. “All systems and weather are looking good for tonight’s Falcon 9 launch of NASA’s DART into an asteroid-intercepting interplanetary trajectory,” SpaceX announced on Tuesday morning. You can watch a Live broadcast of the DART mission in the video below and follow all events leading to launch, courtesy of NASA TV [Schedule is in Eastern Time].
The @SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying the DART spacecraft is vertical on the launch pad at @SLDelta30 in California! Launch is scheduled for Nov. 24 at 1:21am ET (Nov. 23 at 10:21pm PT) #DARTMission #PlanetaryDefense More 📷: https://t.co/iU5MOJDHCI pic.twitter.com/Ik7YhHa0be— NASA HQ PHOTO (@nasahqphoto) November 23, 2021
WATCH IT LIVE!
NASA TV SCHEDULE (Eastern Time)
November 23, Tuesday
12 p.m. – NASA EDGE: Live DART Show
4 p.m. – NASA Science Live: We’re Crashing a Spacecraft into an Asteroid…on Purpose!
Nov. 24, Wednesday
12:30 a.m. – Coverage of the launch of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
1:21 a.m. EST - SpaceX Falcon 9 Liftoff of NASA DART spacecraft.
DART Spacecraft encapsulated inside Falcon 9’s payload fairing halves.
All Featured Images Source: NASA & SpaceX