April 19, 2019

NASA is paying SpaceX $69M to crash a rocket into an asteroid

14 April 2019, 06:38 | Dale Webster

SpaceX will assist NASA's first-ever mission to redirect an asteroid

DART mission

SpaceX has landed a launch contract for the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, in which NASA would slam a spacecraft into an asteroid in an attempt to change its trajectory. The mission costs $69 million. Yesterday, NASA announced that it had selected SpaceX to provide launch services.

The announcement marks yet another achievement for Musk's firm in just a few days; on Thursday, SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon Heavy for the second time ever, logging the huge rocket's first commercial mission.

The amount of the contract for SpaceX will be $ 69 million. Another Falcon 9 launch, the Surface Water and Ocean Topography satellite, was awarded in 2016 with a price of $112 million. "This contract underscores the confidence to NASA, the Falcon 9's ability to perform critical research tasks, while offering the best value launch in the industry".

Telescopes here on Earth will keep watch to document how the collision will affect the smaller asteroid and its orbit around the 2,540-foot-wide (775 meter-wide) Didymos. Using solar electric propulsion, SpaceX is hoping it and DART can intercept the asteroid Didymos' small moon in October 2022. The DART Project office is located at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, and is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASAs Planetary Defense Coordination Office in Washington.

The space agency added: "The DART spacecraft will achieve the kinetic impact by deliberately crashing itself into the moonlet at a speed of approximately 6 km/s, with the aid of an onboard camera and sophisticated autonomous navigation software". The parent asteroid is the 800-meter wide Didymos, with is smaller orbiting moon asteroid, a 150-meter wide object, as the target for DART.

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