SpaceX launches DART, Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission for NASA

Late last night SpaceX launched a double asteroid redirection test mission for NASA. The ~1,300 pound spacecraft will slam into Didymos’ moonlet following its 10-month journey.

SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket from SLC-4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base at 10:20 p.m. PT November 23 (1:20 a.m. ET November 24) on a southern trajectory.

The booster to support the mission was B1063-3, which previously flew Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich and Starlink V1 L28. The booster successfully landed on the droneship Of Course I Still Love You out in the Pacific Ocean.

Everything went well during the launch, and the DART spacecraft is expected to arrive at Didymos in September 2022.

At that time, the spacecraft will crash itself into the moonlet at a speed of 6.6km/s. This should change the speed of the moonlet enough for the change to be measured on Earth.

The spacecraft is also demonstrating the NEXT-C Xenon thruster. This more powerful thruster provides additional flexibility to the mission timeline and should open up more possibilities for future NASA missions.

The DART mission is a planetary defense test, in order to test the possibility of changing the direction of an asteroid by crashing a spacecraft into it. While this particular moonlet poses no potential harm to Earth, this test should prove that it is possible to prevent a truly hazardous asteroid from impacting Earth.

You can watch a replay of the mission below.

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