NASA has been testing since 2017 to see if crashing a satellite into an asteroid can change its course, enlisting SpaceX’s assistance in this endeavor in 2019.
The rocket company announced today that it has completed a static fire test and plans to launch the Double Asteroid Redirection Test on November 23rd (DART).
NASA will “intentionally crash the DART spacecraft into an asteroid at 10:21 p.m. PT that day to see if that is an effective way to change its course, should an Earth-threatening asteroid be discovered in the future,” SpaceX said in a tweet.
A static fire test is one of several steps in preparing a launch vehicle for deployment. It evaluates engine startup performance by measuring pressure and temperature. With this stage completed, SpaceX and NASA appear to be on track to begin operations next week.
DART is aiming for Didymos, a binary asteroid composed of two bodies (the Greek word for “twin”). Didymos B is 160 meters (174 yards) in size and orbits Didymos A, which is 780 meters in size.
The binary asteroid would have safely passed Earth in 2022 and again in 2024 if it had not been on course to collide with our planet.
However, NASA has already identified at least 23 objects that could collide with us in the next 100 years. Developing a defense strategy is critical to protecting humanity if Armageddon is ever on the horizon.