World’s first planetary defense system
GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)
The world’s first planetary defense system called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft was successfully launched by NASA on 24 November 2021 from the Vandenberg US Space Force Base. It was carried aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. About 55 minutes into its flight, the spacecraft separated from the Falcon 9 second stage, and will soon begin to orient itself toward the Sun.
- The DART spacecraft was built by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland at the direction of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office.
- The target of the spacecraft is a small moonlet called Dimorphos which is about 160-metre in diameter.
- The spacecraft will collide with it at a speed of about 6.6 kilometres per second or 24,000 kilometres per hour. The collision is expected to take place between 26 September and 1 October 2022.
- The moonlet does not pose any threat to Earth and the mission is only to test the new technology.
- Currently, there are over 25,000 Near Earth Objects and no known asteroid larger than 140 metre in size has a significant chance of hitting Earth for the next 100 years.
DART’s Mission Objectives are:
- Demonstrate a kinetic impact with Dimorphos
- Change the binary orbital period of Dimorphos.
- Use ground-based telescope observations to measure Dimorphos’ period change before and after impact.
- Measure the effects of the impact and resulting ejecta on Dimorphos.