NASA is finalizing the structure of the spacecraft that will be used next year in the DART mission (Double Asteroid Redirection Test), the first planetary defense drill that will attempt to deflect an asteroid.
If you like to follow the news related to safe space you know the AIDA mission (Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment), the international plan of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) that aims to protect Earth from possible impact from an asteroid.
Although it is true that astronomers consider that the probability that a large space rock could hit our planet is very low, NASA and ESA want to be prepared to act in the event of this eventuality. To do this, they launched the AIDA mission, which includes different drills through which an attempt will be made to deflect the trajectory of an asteroid.
The first of these tests is the DART mission. This NASA-run drill will try to deflect the 160m Didymos-B asteroid, the smallest of the Didymos double asteroid system, as it passes between Earth and Mars. To do this, the DART spacecraft will collide with the asteroid, and then ESA’s Hera mission will gather as much information as possible from the impact site.
The spacecraft that will hit Didymos-B has been under construction under construction for four years, and now the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) is finalizing the details of the structure.
As you can below in the video, the structure is about the size of a fridge. In the past month, the team has installed the electrical harness and subsystems on the ship’s panels, and has also tested avionics and autonomous navigation software in real time.
Now, as reported by NASA, the spacecraft is already equipped with the chemical propulsion system and elements of its electric propulsion system.
“This milestone is the culmination of four years of work”, explains Jeremy John, DART’s main powertrain engineer at APL. “These past few months have presented several unexpected challenges that we were able to successfully overcome to complete powertrain integration and acceptance testing.”.
In the coming months, the team will install the critical operating systems and its only instrument, the optical navigation camera called DRACO (Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation).
The DART mission will launch in the late summer of 2021.So there is still time to finish the construction of the ship and carry out the relevant tests.