DART took off towards the asteroid Dimorphos
DART will be the world’s first mission to test planetary defense techniques, demonstrating a method for deflecting asteroids, called kinetic impact.
DART will impact at a speed of about 6.6 kilometers per second on the small asteroid moon Dimorphos, about 160 meters in diameter, orbiting a larger companion, Didymos, 780 meters in diameter, in a binary asteroid system to change its orbital period.
While the asteroid Didymos will keep its motion around the Sun largely intact, the collision is expected to deviate the orbit of the tiny asteroid Dimorphos a small but unmistakable way, a fraction of one percent, enough that it can be measured with radars. and spotting scopes.
Researchers will have the ability to take a closer look at the system of Didymos asteroids, even briefly, thanks to the image generator DRACO aboard DART and a CubeSat, LICIACube from the Italian Space Agency.
Launched just before impact, LICIACube the size of a shoebox will document the impact of DART and its aftermath. DRACO, the reconnaissance camera is the only instrument on board DART. It will serve primarily as DART’s optical navigation system, capturing images to help the spacecraft reach its goal. DRACO will feed its images into the Autonomous Real-Time Navigation Algorithm (SMART Nav), a system that, in the last hours of the ship, will accurately and automatically guide DART to Didymos B.
Although none of the asteroids pose a threat to Earth, the collision with Dimorphos will allow researchers demonstrate deflection technique along with various new technologies and collect important data to improve our asteroid deflection modeling and prediction capabilities. Those improvements will help us better prepare in the event that an asteroid is discovered as a threat to Earth.
NASA in Spanish