The NASA spacecraft-asteroid collision

The NASA spacecraft-asteroid collision

#GS – 03 Science and Technology

For Prelims

About DART Mission

  • Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission is the first Kinetic Impactor Method of planetary defence, launched by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
  • DART spacecraft collided with the asteroid Dimorphos and is expected to slowdown the revolution of the asteroid.
  • It has two solar arrays and uses hydrazine propellant for manoeuvring the spacecraft.
  • The spacecraft was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
  • The spacecraft carries a high-resolution imager called Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical Navigation (DRACO).
  • The mission has been successful in deflecting the trajectory of the pair of asteroids.
  • The collision is expected to reduce the orbital period of Dimorphos by as much as 10 minutes.

About LICIACube:

  • DART carries a small satellite or CubeSat named LICIACube (Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids).
  • LICIACube is used to capture images of the impact and the impact crater formed because of the collision.
  • The CubeSat was released and deployed two weeks before the impact.

About Dimorphos:

  • Dimorphos is a small moonlet which orbits a larger asteroid named Didymos.
  • Dimorphos is about 160-metre in diameter while Didymos has a diameter of 780 metres.
  • Didymos is seen as a perfect system for the test mission because it is an eclipsing binary which means it has a moonlet (Dimorphos) that regularly orbits the asteroid, and which can be seen when it passes in front of the main asteroid.
  • Earth-based telescopes can study this variation in brightness to understand how long it takes Dimorphos to orbit Didymos.

The use of this technology:

  • The technology is being developed to use against asteroid that can threaten the life as we know it in the planet.
  • The ‘kick’ technique that deflects asteroids can then be used to move a small asteroid into a convenient position for space mining.