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NASA's DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission will be the first ever space mission to demonstrate asteroid deflection by a kinetic impactor. In October 2022, DART is planned to intercept Dimorphos (Didymos B, nicknamed "DidyMoon"), the secondary member of the (65803) Didymos system, a binary Near-Earth Asteroid system with characteristics of great interest to NASA's overall planetary defense efforts.

The DART spacecraft is a simple design - a kinetic impactor with a single instrument, the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for OpNav (DRACO), which will observe the asteroid upon approach. DART will navigate to crash itself into Didymos B at a speed of approximately 6 km/s, aided by the DRACO camera and sophisticated autonomous navigation software.

The DART payload, Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Op-nav (DRACO), is a high-resolution imager derived from the New Horizons LORRI camera to support navigation and targeting and to determine impact site and geologic context. The spacecraft is a single-string design with thruster-only control weighing about 500 kg. The DART impact is directed at Dimorphos with a relative velocity of about 6 km/s.

As a technology demonstration mission, DART also incorporates two key new technologies to further the state of the art for future missions in NASA's portfolio.

  • Chemical propulsion systems store energy chemically in their propellants, but the energy created by electric propulsion systems comes from electrostatically accelerating ions formed from the propellant.
  • Precise, autonomous navigation is required for DART's kinetic impact to be successful. JHUAPL has developed a Small-body Maneuvering Autonomous Real-Time Navigation (SMART Nav) algorithm for DART; it is comprised of image processing and Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) algorithms that are a part of a navigation simulation. When DART impacts Dimorphos, navigation is handed over to the on-board SMART Nav system. In addition to the navigation, the SMART Nav fuel management logic can determine the appropriate times for course corrections to optimize the efficient use of a limited propellant supply.

DART will also carry the Italian LICIACube cubesat, which will be deployed 10 days before impact to monitor the effects of DARTs impact.

DART will be launched in June 2021 from Vandenberg on a Falcon-9 v1.2 (Block 5) rocket.

The European Hera mission will visit the Didymos system in 2026 to evaluate the effects of the DART mission.

Nation: USA
Type / Application: Asteroid impact
Operator: NASA
Contractors: NASA, JHU/APL
Equipment: DRACO
Propulsion: 12 × MR-103G hydrazine thrusters, NEXT-C ion engine
Power: 2 deployable ROSA solar array, batteries
Mass: 610 kg
Orbit: heliocentric
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
DART 2021-110A 24.11.2021 Va SLC-4E Falcon-9 v1.2 (Block 5) with LICIACube

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