Earth Strikes Back: NASA Probe Will Crash into Asteroid in 7 Weeks

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The countdown is on for NASA’s first attempt to deflect an asteroid — a test that could prove vital in the future should one pose a major threat to the Earth.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Mission (DART) mission is 48 days away from its collision with asteroid Dimorphos on Sept. 26. Edward Reynolds, DART program manager at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, gave a preview of the mission and the role a Cubesat will play in it during the Small Satellite 2022 conference in Logan, Utah.

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Tyvak International, a Terran Orbital Company, Completes Critical Design Review of Deep Space Bound Milani Satellite

The nanosatellite will support the European Space Agency’s Hera Mission

Milani scans Didymos (Image Credit: ESA / Science Office)

TURIN, Italy (Terran Orbital Corporation PR) — Terran Orbital Corporation (NYSE: LLAP), a global leader in satellite solutions, primarily serving the aerospace and defense industries, today announced its wholly-owned subsidiary, Tyvak International SRL, has together with its partners, achieved full Critical Design Review of the Milani spacecraft. A critical component of the Hera planetary defense mission, Milani will be the European Space Agency’s (ESA) first deep-space nanosatellite. Milani will also be the first nanosatellite ever to orbit an asteroid. Tyvak International is responsible for Milani’s design, build, and mission operations. In this exploration, Tyvak International is joined by an excellent consortium of European industries and research centers from Finland, Czech Republic, and Italy.

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Europe’s Hera Asteroid Mission’s Takes a Major Step

Hera spacecraft propulsion module (Credit: OHB)

PARIS (ESA PR) — A key element of ESA’s Hera mission for planetary defence has left the facilities of its manufacturer OHB in Bremen – a major step in preparation for its eventual odyssey to the Didymos asteroid system.

The mission’s Propulsion Module flight model, seen here, has been delivered to Avio, southeast of Rome, where propellant tanks, thrusters and associated pipes and valves will be integrated with it. The fully equipped Propulsion Module is what will take Hera on its 26-month trek through deep space to the main Didymos asteroid and its smaller Dimorphos companion.

On 26 September this year Dimorphos will become the very first Solar System body to have its orbit altered by human action in a measurable way, when NASA’s DART spacecraft impacts with it. When Hera arrives at the asteroid in December 2026 the spacecraft will perform a detailed post-crash investigation, assessing the mass and make-up of Dimorphos and measuring the crater left by DART’s impact, helping to validate kinetic impact as a workable planetary defence method.

Meanwhile Hera’s other half, the Core Module, is also taking shape at OHB in Bremen. The Core Module will carry all the mission’s scientific instruments as well as on-board computer and other subsystems. The spacecraft will be completed when these two halves are eventually joined together, ahead of Hera’s planned launch in October 2024.

NASA Goddard Helps Ensure Asteroid Deflector Hits Target, Predicts and Will Observe Impact Results

Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft at Didymos. (Credit: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Although the chance of an asteroid impacting Earth is small, even a relatively small asteroid of about 500 feet (about 150 meters) across carries enough energy to cause widespread damage around the impact site. NASA leads efforts in the U.S. and worldwide both to detect and track potentially hazardous asteroids and to study technologies to mitigate or avoid impacts on Earth. If an asteroid were discovered and determined to be on a collision course with Earth, one response could be to launch a “kinetic impactor” – a high-velocity spacecraft that would deflect the asteroid by ramming into it, altering the asteroid’s orbit slightly so that it misses Earth. NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will be the first mission to demonstrate asteroid deflection using a kinetic impactor. 

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Spanish Astrobiology Center Participates in DART and Hera Planetary Defense Missions

DART mission (Credit: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory)

MADRID (Spanish Astrobiology Center) — Currently the Astrobiology Center (CAB, CSIC-INTA) is an integral part of the joint space mission of NASA and ESA called DART-Hera. Its objective consists of sending two spacecraft to a binary asteroid system known as Didymos 65803 and thus validating the impact techniques in order to avoid future collisions with potentially dangerous asteroids for our planet.

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Planetary Defense: Italy’s LICIACube Flies with DART Toward a Collision with an Asteroid

LICIACube (Credit: Argotec)

The journey into deep space of the satellite of the Italian Space Agency’s LICIACube satellite has begun.

ROME (ASI PR) — The first planetary defense mission of NASA DART, which carries the LICIACube satellite built by Argotec, in collaboration and with the contribution of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), was launched as scheduled on Nov. 24 at 07.21 Italian time from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

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Planetary Defenders: After NASA’s DART Comes ESA’s Hera Mission

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test, DART, mission is intended to collide with the smaller of two bodies of the Didymos binary asteroid system in autumn 2022. ESA’s Hera mission will then perform follow-up post-impact observations. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The world will be watching the milestone launch of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, DART, spacecraft on Wednesday, 24 November, intended to alter one small part of the Solar System forever.

DART will collide with the small moon of an asteroid in order to shift its orbit around its parent body – to test the concept of diverting threatening objects away from Earth.

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NASA, SpaceX Launch DART: First Test Mission to Defend Planet Earth

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches with the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, spacecraft onboard, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, Pacific time (Nov. 24 Eastern time) from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. DART is the world’s first full-scale planetary defense test, demonstrating one method of asteroid deflection technology. The mission was built and is managed by Johns Hopkins APL for NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), the world’s first full-scale mission to test technology for defending Earth against potential asteroid or comet hazards, launched Wednesday at 1:21 a.m. EST on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

Just one part of NASA’s larger planetary defense strategy, DART – built and managed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland – will impact a known asteroid that is not a threat to Earth. Its goal is to slightly change the asteroid’s motion in a way that can be accurately measured using ground-based telescopes.

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DART on Target – Six Questions with Mission Manager Clayton Kachele

DART mission (Credit: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory)

Editor’s Note: DART is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg on Nov. 23 at 10:21 p.m. PST (Nov. 24 at 1:21 a.m. EST). NASA will stream the launch live on its website. 

By Wayne Smith
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

It sounds like a plot for a movie but protecting Earth from a potential impact by a hazardous asteroid is the objective of an upcoming NASA mission.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission is a planetary defense-driven test of technologies for mitigating such a threat. DART’s target asteroid is not a threat to Earth. The DART spacecraft launch window opens Nov. 24. It will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

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Testing Mini-radar to Peer Inside an Asteroid

Juventas CubeSat undergoing tests at ESTEC in The Netherlands. (Credit: ESA-P. de Maagt)

NOORDWIJK, The Netherlands (ESA PR) — A specially upgraded radio-frequency chamber in ESA’s technical heart is testing what is set to become the smallest radar system to be flown in space, hosted aboard a breadbox-sized spacecraft.

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DART Arrives at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Its Final Stop Before Launch

Inside a cleanroom at Johns Hopkins APL, the DART spacecraft being moved into a specialized shipping container that headed across the country to Vandenberg Space Force Base near Lompoc, California, where DART is scheduled to launch from late next month. (Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman)

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. (NASA PR) — Just two days after leaving the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, in a specialized container carefully strapped to the deck of a semi-trailer truck, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft arrived in California — its final stop here on Earth. 

The truck, spacecraft and a small motorcade of APL engineers and technicians pulled into Vandenberg Space Force Base near Lompoc, California, on Saturday, Oct. 2, in the early afternoon local time. 

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DART Gets Its Wings: Spacecraft Integrated with Innovative Solar Array Technology and Camera

LThe recently installed Roll-Out Solar Arrays (ROSA) and Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical (DRACO) navigation are two critical technologies that will enable the DART spacecraft to navigate through space and effectively reach the Didymos asteroid system. (Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman)

LAUREL, Md. (NASA PR) — Perched atop a stand in the middle of a high-ceilinged clean room, DART is beginning to look like the intrepid spacecraft that will aim itself directly into an asteroid next fall. With the addition of its compact Roll-Out Solar Arrays (ROSA)​ coiled into two gold cylinders that flank the sides of the spacecraft, and its less visible but still integral​ imager, the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical (DRACO) navigation tucked safely beneath its panels, the spacecraft is close to fully integrated.

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LICIACube is Ready for the First Planetary Defense Mission

LICIACube (Credit: Argotec)

An Italian microSat, made by Argotec and ASI, which will fly with NASA towards an asteroid

ROME (ASI PR) — LICIACube, the microsatellite built entirely in the Argotec plants in Turin on behalf of and in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency (ASI), will be delivered and shipped in the coming weeks to the integration site in the United States in preparation for the launch, scheduled for the end year, of the first planetary defense mission from future potential asteroid threats .

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ESA and JAXA Meet Online to Agree on Future Cooperation

Martian Moons mission approaches Deimos. (Credit: JAXA/NHK)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA Director General Jan Wörner and President of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Dr Hiroshi Yamakawa took part in an online bilateral meeting on 4 February, confirming the status of cooperative activities between the two agencies.

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EMXYS & Royal Observatory of Belgium Receive Go Ahead for Participation in ESA’s Hera Planetary Defense Mission

Juventas CubeSat coming in for asteroid landing (Credit: ESA – Science Office)

ELCHE, Spain (EMXYS PR) — EMXYS and the Royal Observatory of Belgium have been selected by the European Space Agency to provide a gravimeter for the Juventas spacecraft that will land on asteroid Dimorphos as part of the European Space Agency’s planetary defence programme.

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