NASA has delayed the launch of its first-ever planetary defense mission aimed toward deflecting probably hazardous asteroids from colliding with Earth.
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. Instead, the area company is concentrating on a backup window that opens Nov. 24 and runs to Feb. 15, 2022, in keeping with an announcement from NASA.
The resolution to postpone the launch was made by NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) senior management following a danger evaluation of the DART mission schedule. Delaying the launch of the mission won’t have an effect on the spacecraft’s arrival at its goal, which is slated for October 2022, NASA officers mentioned.
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The latest danger evaluation revealed technical points with two main elements of the spacecraft, together with its major instrument, the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical-navigation (DRACO), and its Roll-Out Solar Arrays (ROSA). The DRACO imager must be bolstered to make sure it could face 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 safety are of the utmost importance, and after a careful risk assessment, it became clear DART could not feasibly and safely launch within the primary launch window,” Thomas Zurbuchen, SMD affiliate administrator, mentioned within the assertion. “To ensure DART is poised for mission success, NASA directed the team pursue the earliest possible launch opportunity during the secondary launch window to allow more time for DRACO testing and delivery of ROSA, and provide a safe working environment through the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The DART spacecraft will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. NASA is working with SpaceX and the company’s Launch Services 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) broad, 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 method, requiring the spacecraft to slam into Dimorphos to vary the orbital pace of the asteroid by a kinetic affect. If profitable, this method might be used to deflect asteroids that pose a risk to Earth.
“While COVID-19 was not the sole factor for this delay, it has been a significant and critically contributing factor for multiple issues,” NASA officers mentioned within the assertion. “Testing equipment before launch is a crucial step in all missions to ensure mission success, and project teams build time into processing schedules to accommodate for potential delays.”
NASA’s DART mission may also carry a small satellite tv for pc referred to as Light Italian Cubesat for Imaging of Asteroid, or LICIACube, which was constructed by the Italian Space Agency to look at the affect at Dimorphos and return photos of the occasion to Earth. The European Space Agency can be planning a follow-up mission to Dimorphos, often called Hera, which can assess the outcomes of the DART mission and research the affect web site on the asteroid. The Hera mission is predicted to launch in 2023 or 2024 and can arrive on the asteroid two years later.
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