NASA has officially given SpaceX the contract to launch the Double Asteroid Redirection Test. The mission will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket in 2021.
The total cost for the DART mission to launch including mission-related costs and other related services amounts to $69 million. As the DART mission will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket, it's a relatively cheaper price compared to past NASA contracts for Falcon 9 launches.
On October 2017, NASA has given SpaceX the contract to launch the Sentinel-6A satellite mission on a Falcon 9 from Vandenberg on November 2020, which cost $97 million. Another Falcon 9 launch, the Surface Water and Ocean Topography satellite, was awarded in 2016 with a price of $112 million. The mission will launch in April 2021.
"SpaceX is proud to continue our successful partnership with NASA in support of this important interplanetary mission," says SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell in a company statement. "This award underscores NASA's confidence in Falcon 9's capability to perform critical science missions while providing the best launch value in the industry."
According to NASA Planetary Defense, DART's main goal is to demonstrate a kinetic impact on a small asteroid. This is to prevent a possible asteroid collision course on Earth.
To achieve this, a test run must first be commenced, hence DART. 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.
DART is going to be the first NASA mission to demonstrate the kinetic impact technique to change the motion of an asteroid in space. To do this, the spacecraft will use an electric propulsion system to travel to the asteroid Didymos.
DART will then collide with the small moonlet orbiting Didymos at the speed of 6 kilometers per second, with the goal of changing the speed of the moonlet in its orbit around the main body by a fraction of 1 percent, enough for the telescopes on Earth to record the event.
DART's target launch date is on June 2021, at the Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.