NASA has delayed the launch of its first-ever planetary protection mission aimed toward deflecting doubtlessly hazardous asteroids from colliding with Earth.
The mission, known as Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), will ship a spacecraft to check crash into the near-Earth binary asteroid system known as Didymos, in 2022. NASA introduced Feb. 17 that this yr’s main launch window of July 21 to Aug. 24 is now not an possibility. As a substitute, the area company is focusing on a backup window that opens Nov. 24 and runs to Feb. 15, 2022, according to a statement from NASA.
The choice to postpone the launch was made by NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) senior management following a danger evaluation of the DART project schedule. Delaying the launch of the mission is not going to have an effect on the spacecraft’s arrival at its goal, which is slated for October 2022, NASA officers stated.
Associated: Potentially dangerous asteroids (images)
The current danger evaluation revealed technical points with two main components of the spacecraft, together with its major instrument, the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Digicam for Optical-navigation (DRACO), and its Roll-Out Photo voltaic Arrays (ROSA). The DRACO imager must be bolstered to make sure it might probably face up to launch, whereas the photo voltaic arrays are delayed following provide chain points triggered partially by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At NASA, mission success and security are of the utmost significance, and after a cautious danger evaluation, it turned clear DART couldn’t feasibly and safely launch throughout the main launch window,” Thomas Zurbuchen, SMD affiliate administrator, stated within the assertion. “To make sure DART is poised for mission success, NASA directed the crew pursue the earliest doable launch alternative throughout the secondary launch window to permit extra time for DRACO testing and supply of ROSA, and supply a secure working surroundings by way of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The DART spacecraft will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Pressure Base in California. NASA is working with SpaceX and the company’s Launch Companies Program to determine the earliest doable launch alternative inside this secondary window.
DART will goal a binary asteroid system that consists of a bigger asteroid known as Didymos, which measures about 2,540 toes (775 meters) extensive, and a smaller asteroid satellite tv for pc known as Dimorphos, which measures 540 toes (165 m) throughout. The mission will check a brand new planetary defense method, requiring the spacecraft to slam into Dimorphos to alter the orbital pace of the asteroid by way of a kinetic impression. If profitable, this system might be used to deflect asteroids that pose a menace to Earth.
“Whereas COVID-19 was not the only real issue for this delay, it has been a major and critically contributing issue for a number of points,” NASA officers stated within the assertion. “Testing gear earlier than launch is a vital step in all missions to make sure mission success, and challenge groups construct time into processing schedules to accommodate for potential delays.”
NASA’s DART mission will even carry a small satellite tv for pc known as Gentle Italian Cubesat for Imaging of Asteroid, or LICIACube, which was constructed by the Italian House Company to look at the impression at Dimorphos and return photos of the occasion to Earth. The European House Company can also be planning a follow-up mission to Dimorphos, known as Hera, which can assess the outcomes of the DART mission and examine the impression 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.
Comply with Samantha Mathewson @Sam_Ashley13. Comply with us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Fb.