Published: Sun, April 14, 2019
Science | By Michele Flores

NASA selects SpaceX to provide launch services for DART mission

NASA selects SpaceX to provide launch services for DART mission

The mission costs $69 million.

NASA is paying $69 million to SpaceX for the contract, which is lower than the $95 million SpaceX charges roughly for defense contract launches.

NASA revealed on Friday that it had selected SpaceX to provide the launch services for the upcoming DART mission. Another Falcon 9 launch, the Surface Water and Ocean Topography satellite, was awarded in 2016 with a price of $112 million.

The potential for an asteroid apocalypse scenario has NASA concerned enough to create the DART mission, a project that sounds straight out of a sci-fi action movie.

There are some disasters the world just isn't prepared for, and one of those is an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.

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To achieve this, a test run must first be commenced, hence DART.

The mission will also target another object which is scientifically known as a "moonlet" as NASA states its "more typical of the size of asteroids that could pose a more common hazard to Earth". The mission is directed by NASA to the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory with support from NASA centers such as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Goddard Space Flight Center, and Johnson Space Center.

The space agency plans to intercept Didymos when it's within 11 million kilometers to the Earth. SpaceX will be handling launch duties with its Falcon 9 rocket, which will launch from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at some point in June 2021.

DART is going to be the first NASA mission to demonstrate the kinetic impact technique to change the motion of an asteroid in space. NASA wants to demonstrate it can measure asteroid deflection within a 10 percent range of accuracy, to capture high resolution images of the target asteroid prior to impact, and to prove it can use "autonomous guidance with proportional navigation" to hit the center of a 150 meter target body.

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