The satellite camera will record the impact of the DART spacecraft with an asteroid

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is the world’s first planetary defense test mission, and it has deployed a smaller “photographer” spacecraft that will record all the details of its planned impact on an asteroid.

DART is a NASA spacecraft designed to deflect an asteroid’s path as part of a test program that serves as a kind of defense system against objects in space. It is scheduled to collide with the asteroid Demophos on September 26.

as explained Gizmodowhile Demophos is not a threat, the collision will be an experiment to see if it can be pushed off its current trajectory which, in theory, would allow NASA to prove it has the ability to reroute any future asteroids that might actually pose a threat to Earth.

DART will not survive the impact, but it is Successfully published a small camera They will record the procedure and share that information with NASA for further evaluation.

LICIACube, short for Light Italian CubeSat for Asteroid Imaging, emerged from its spring-loaded box on 9/11, exactly 15 days before the scheduled impact. He signaled to the DART team that he was successfully disconnected and online after an hour.

“We are very excited about this – the first time an Italian team has operated their national spacecraft in deep space!” says Simone Pirrotta, LICIACube project manager for the Italian Space Agency, which contributed and operates LCIACube.

DART team engineers lift and inspect the LICIACube CubeSat after it arrives at the APL in August. The mini-satellite will be deployed 10 days before the DART asteroid impact, providing key snapshots of the collision and its subsequent plume of material. Here, one of the arrays of solar panels on the satellite’s wings is shown. | NASA / Johns Hopkins ABL / Ed Whitman

“The entire team is fully engaged in activities, monitoring the condition of the satellite and preparing for the approach phase of the asteroid flyby. We expect to receive and process the first full-frame images two days after the DART impact. We will then use them to confirm the impact and add relevant information about the generated plume – the precious real value of our images. “.

The LICIACube was designed, manufactured and operated by the Italian airline Argotec with the participation of the National Institute of Astrophysics and the Universities of Bologna and Milan. It is programmed to document the effects of the DART impact and will collect images of the asteroid’s surface as well as any debris ejected from the crater that DART is expected to leave on its surface.

DART team members from APL and the Italian Space Agency carefully maneuvered the LICIACube into place on the DART spacecraft. LICIACube was fully integrated earlier this month. | NASA / Johns Hopkins ABL / Ed Whitman

The camera spacecraft actually carries two camera systems: LUKE (LICIACube Unit Key Explorer) and LEIA (LICIACube Explorer Imaging for Asteroid).

“Each will capture scientific data that will inform the autonomous microsatellite system by finding and tracking the target asteroid Demorphos throughout the DART encounter,” NASA explains. “The LICIACube team is now working to calibrate the spacecraft and its payload by capturing images of celestial bodies at different integration rates and times.”

The images will be combined with data collected by DART itself, and if the mission is successful, it will inform future strategy for dealing with risks from space to Earth.


Image credits: The title image is an illustration of NASA’s DART spacecraft and the Italian Space Agency’s (ASI) LICIACube prior to collision in the Didymos binary system. | NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Steve Gribbin