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NASA chose SpaceX for an asteroid “ramming” mission

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The company Ilona Mask won the NASA aerospace agency's contract to launch the DART space mission, the goal of which will be the first ever attempt to change the trajectory of the asteroid. According to sources, the state agency decided to choose SpaceX because the latter offered its services for a significantly lower amount than other potential contractors offered. The launch of the spacecraft project Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is scheduled for June 2021 from the US Air Force Vanderberg base in California.

Two years ago, NASA created the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) to evaluate and create asteroid impact protection. It is engaged in the search and cataloging of near-Earth asteroids and comets, which can pose a potential danger to our planet. This bureau will publish warnings to the inhabitants of the Earth about a possible collision, and it will plan and coordinate with the US government the operation to reject the asteroid.

DART is an experiment aimed at understanding how realistic it is to perform such an operation and reject a medium-sized asteroid. An asteroid Didim with a size of 800 meters was selected for testing. Its feature is the presence of a small satellite with a size of only 150 meters. Both objects do not represent a threat to the Earth, but they are excellent targets for testing the concept of the method of rejecting the trajectory of motion of similar bodies. Until recently, the project existed only in the form of a concept, but in 2017, the leadership of the aerospace agency approved the concept and allowed to move to the next phase – the design.

The development is carried out by the efforts of specialists from the Laboratory of Applied Physics at Johns Hopkins University. Within its framework, an asteroid Didim is planned to launch a spacecraft with an electric motor and a mass of about 500 kilograms. It is supposed to push the device with an asteroid at a speed of 6 km / s, thereby changing its trajectory of motion. Before its goal, the space "kamikaze" to overcome 11 million kilometers.

The total project cost is 69 million dollars. The bulk of these funds, $ 61 million, will be aimed at organizing the launch of the SpaceX rocket carrier of the company SpaceX, which is significantly less than the money that a private company usually takes for its services from NASA (about $ 100 million per launch), Space portal notes News.

At the time of the collision of the spacecraft with an asteroid, scientists want to measure the transmission of kinetic energy, as well as monitor the characteristics of the orbit of the asteroid satellite.

“SpaceX is proud to continue its successful partnership with NASA in supporting important interplanetary missions. This agreement underscores NASA’s confidence in Falcon 9’s ability to fulfill an important scientific mission and provide industry-leading start-up quality, ”commented Gwynn Shotwell, the company's president.

The spacecraft will have to reach the asteroid and its satellite no earlier than October 2022.

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