June 16, 2024

The World’s Ground Stations are Getting Ready to Watch a Spacecraft Crash Into an Asteroid Next Week!

In the final hours prior to impact, DART will send a consistent stream of images to ground stations on Earth, showing Dimorphos as it is slowly fixed into view. Tracking efforts are being ramped up in preparation using the ESAs Estrack network and NASAs Deep Space Network (DSN). The core Estrack network consists of 4 ESA stations situated in Kourou (French Guiana), Kiruna (Norway), Redu (Belgium), Santa Maria (Portugal), and the three stations that comprise the DSN– in Goldstone (California), Madrid (Spain), and Canberra (Australia).

At the time of effect, DART will be at a range of 11 million km (6.8 million mi) from Earth and traveling at a speed of 22,000 km/h (13,670 miles per hour). The DART objective will not be able to distinguish between Dimorphos and its parent body until the last hour before impact.

On September 26th, NASAs Double-Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) will rendezvous with the Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) Didymos. By 23:14 UTC (06:14 PM EDT; 03: 14 PM PDT), this spacecraft will clash with the small moonlet orbiting the asteroid (Dimorphos) to test the “kinetic impactor” approach of planetary defense. This technique involves a spacecraft striking an asteroid to modify its orbit and divert it from a trajectory that would cause it to collide with Earth. The event will be broadcast live worldwide and feature information streams from the DART during its final 12 hours before it strikes its target.

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The network is reinforced by 11 ground stations around the world (the “Cooperative Network”) and 5 stations in remote locations of the world (the “Augmented Network”). When it is noticeable to their antennae, the Estrack and DSN interact with the DART objective for about an hour every day. The ESAs Deep area antenna in Australia has likewise gotten monthly status reports from DART, offering updated information on its status, area, and commands, which are essential for NASAs mission control.
During the last 12 hours (and a couple of hours after), the ESAs New Norcia Deep Space Antenna 1 (DSA 1) in Australia will provide a continuous stream of information and images. As ESA DART Service Manager Daniel Firre discussed in a current ESA news release:
” It is crucial for objective success that there are no spaces in protection throughout DARTs terminal stage, and so antennas around the world will be operating in unison, backing each other up and completing any gaps in NASAs Deep Space Network coverage– we can not lose the link to DART for a moment.”
The station also finishes a geographic triangle when coupled with DSN antennas stationed in Canberra, Australia, and the Goldstone in California. This permits objective controllers to track DART concurrently from each place– referred to as the delta-Differential One-way Range (Delta-DOR) approach– and offers extremely precise readings on its place, orientation, and speed.

Graphic revealing the flight of the DART objective as it nears its goal, the double-asteroid system Didymos. Credit: ESA
Suzy Jackson, the Maintenance & & Operations Manager for the New Norcia ground station, discussed:
” Our giant dish in Australia will be in touch with DART as it crashes into Dimorphos. In addition, the information from DART will be used at NASAs objective control to adjust mission parameters, and its really important the details gets here as close to real-time as possible.”
The effect will be seen by a CubeSat mission contributed by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), the Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids (LICIACube). This 14 kg (lbs) satellite will ride in addition to DART and remove 15 days before the impactor strikes Dimorphos to record pictures of the impact and the resulting cloud of ejected matter. The ESA will likewise introduce the Hera mission in October 2024 to rendezvous with the asteroid (by December 2026) to determine any modifications in Dimorphos orbit, indicating if the DART mission was successful.
The Hera probe will likewise carry out an in-depth analysis of the impact crater, the mass of the parent asteroid, and other experiments to determine if the kinetic effect strategy works. Researchers will have validated an essential method for securing Earth from Potentially-Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) if all goes as planned. Such methods are important for guaranteeing that mankind and the many other species that call Earth house can continue to live and grow here for the foreseeable future.
The occasion will be hosted live by NASA television beginning at 12:00 PM EST (03:00 AM PST) and can be viewed on NASAs site, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The event will be live-broadcast by ESA Web television simultaneously, starting at 06:00 PM Central European Time (CET). For an added treat, heres astrophysicist and Queen guitarist Brian May sharing the story and significance of the Hera mission, mankinds first mission to study a double-asteroid:

Further Reading: ESA
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The DART objective will not be able to distinguish in between Dimorphos and its parent body until the last hour before effect. The Estrack and DSN interact with the DART objective for about an hour every day when it is visible to their antennae. The ESAs Deep area antenna in Australia has actually also gotten month-to-month status reports from DART, providing updated details on its status, location, and commands, which are important for NASAs objective control.
In addition, the information from DART will be used at NASAs objective control to adjust mission parameters, and its actually crucial the information arrives as close to real-time as possible.”
The ESA will also introduce the Hera mission in October 2024 to rendezvous with the asteroid (by December 2026) to measure any modifications in Dimorphos orbit, suggesting if the DART mission was successful.