Tech UPTechnologyDART spacecraft takes first look at asteroid Didymos

DART spacecraft takes first look at asteroid Didymos

The Didymos Asteroid and Reconnaissance Camera for Optical Navigation (DRACO) aboard NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft has captured new images of the near-Earth binary asteroid system Didymos, about 780 meters in diameter and the small moon of approximately 160 meters, Dimorphos.

D-day is coming

This dual asteroid system includes DART’s target: Dimorphos. On September 26, 2022, DART will impact Dimorphos to change its orbit within the binary system.

Although the asteroid poses no threat to Earth , this is humanity’s first test of the kinetic impact technique, using a spacecraft to deflect an asteroid for planetary defense.

This image of light from asteroid Didymos and its orbiting moon Dimorphos is a composite of 243 images taken by the Didymos Asteroid and Reconnaissance Camera for Optical Navigation (DRACO) aboard DART on July 27, 2022.

“This first set of images is being used as a test set to test our imaging techniques,” said Elena Adams, a DART mission systems engineer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. “The image quality is similar to what we could get from ground-based telescopes, but it is important to show that DRACO is working properly and can see its target to make any necessary adjustments before we start using the images to guide the spacecraft. towards the asteroid autonomously.”

By seeing the DRACO images of Didymos for the first time, we can define the best settings for DRACO and adjust the software,” said Julie Bellerose, DART Navigation Lead, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory . we will refine where DART is pointing by getting a more precise determination of Didymos’s location.”

The strategy is clear: every five hours of observation, those responsible for the mission will carry out three trajectory correction maneuvers over the next three weeks. The final maneuver will be on September 25, approximately 24 hours before impact. Ultimately, the spacecraft will guide itself autonomously until colliding with Dimorphos.

We will be waiting.

Reference: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA.

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