The European Space Agency’s deep space network tracks the impact of the asteroid DART

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Next week, all eyes will be looking up as NASA deliberately crashes 550 kilograms DART . spacecraft In an asteroid orbiting at high speed. ESA’s ground-based Estrack network, ‘Europe’s Eyes on the Sky’, will focus specifically on the man-made collider, tracking it as it approaches the 160-meter-wide moving target in the world’s first test of asteroid deflection.

in depth

The asteroid Demorphos fits into the Colosseum in Rome

The target asteroid Demorphos poses no threat to Earth, and don’t worry – the kinetic effect of DART can’t push the asteroid onto a trajectory that collides with Earth. What this experiment should do, however, is make a slight change in the asteroid’s orbit, helping scientists learn more about the deflection to see if – and when – a dangerous asteroid has been detected.

Watch the impact live as data streams from DART to ground stations around the world, including the European Space Agency’s New Norcia station in Australia. The NASA program begins at midnight CST and will be broadcast on ESA WebTV with contributions from the European Space Agency’s HERA mission team. Follow Tweet embed On Twitter for live updates from the ESA Mission Control Center, the home of Estrack HQ and the Space Safety Program.

An asteroid hits us before it hits us

After the collapse comes Hira

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, DART, is currently testing a rush through space toward a pair of gravitationally bound asteroids in orbit around the Sun. The binary asteroid system is known as Didymos, and the smaller ‘moon’ of this pair, Demorphos, will be the first asteroid in the Solar System to be the target of a man-made kinetic collider.

In the aftermath of the collision, the European Space Agency’s Hera mission will fly to the stricken rock for an in-depth analysis of the crater formed, asteroid mass and more, turning this major experiment into an understandable and repeatable planetary exoplanet. Defense technique.

All of this, however, depends on DART hitting its target. The spacecraft will rush through space at a speed of 22,000 km / h at a distance of 11 million km from Earth, approaching a moving object the same size as the Great Pyramid of Giza – so this is not easy.

ESA’s Malargüe Tracking Station

In fact, in just the last hour before impact, DART will even be able to distinguish Dimorphos from the larger central asteroid, using its sophisticated guidance, navigation and control system on board to maneuver it autonomously toward its unknown target.

ESA’s eye on the sky network, Estrack, supports NASA in the weeks leading up to the collision with DART tracking, helping to provide data on its condition, position and velocity and critically maintain continuous monitoring for the last 12 hours when a live stream of images will be displayed in-house to be It is made available and watched “live” by countless people around the world.

Giant antennas meet

Since May, the European Space Agency’s 35-meter deep space antenna in Malargue, Argentina, has helped provide ultra-precise measurements of the DART site with a regular mission-specific tracking time in the months leading up to the collision.

The European Space Agency’s Estrack network tracks DART in the crucial moments before an asteroid impact

The station creates a geographic triangle on Earth when paired with NASA antennas located in Canberra, Australia and Goldstone, California. Simultaneous DART tracking of each location allows highly accurate determination of its location, direction and speed. This tracking method is known as Delta-DOR (Delta Range Unidirectional Differential).

The European Space Agency’s deep space antenna in Australia also receives monthly status reports from DART. These reports are “linked” to Earth from the spacecraft and include details of its condition, location, and any commands it has been given – all information critical to NASA’s mission control.

Now in the last 10 days before the collision, tracking has increased even more as the European Space Agency’s Estrack network makes daily communications with the spacecraft to fill in gaps in NASA’s deep space network. Each of these “lanes,” the period during which the spacecraft is visible and in contact with the antenna, lasts about one hour each day until DART enters the final phase of its mission.

Accurate hit of the target

asteroid collision

In the last few hours of DART’s life, it will send back to Earth a continuous stream of images revealing the torque of its target in its field of view from a blurry mass to a small asteroid, getting ever closer and closer until…the target point! This will be the first ever non-fiction film to depict a realistic asteroid deflection, and it is critical that every scene comes home.

“It is essential to mission success that there are no coverage gaps during the final phase of DART, so antennas around the world will operate in unison, supporting each other and filling any gaps in coverage of NASA’s Deep Space Network — we can’t afford to lose,” explains Daniel Fair, Administrator. DART service at ESA.

The European Space Agency’s new Norcia deep space tracking station

During this last period starting 12 hours before impact and lasting two hours after, ESA’s New Norcia station in Australia will provide a constantly updated stream of data and images from the mission. Data from DART will have traveled 11 million kilometers before it reached the 35-meter-high dish in Australia, all in about half a minute.

“Our giant application in Australia will be in contact with DART when it crashes into Dimorphos. In the final minutes, data will flow from the onboard DRACO instrument. Scientists will use this data to estimate the asteroid’s mass, surface type and impact location,” explains Susie Jackson, Director of Maintenance and Operations At New Norcia Ground Station.

“Plus, the data from DART at NASA’s Mission Control Center will be used to fine-tune mission parameters, and it’s really important that the information arrives as close to real time as possible.”

The Italian company CubeSat witnesses the accident

Collaboration on Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA)

The only thing DART can’t show us is the visible consequence of its impact on the asteroid. With its mission completed, the spacecraft will be destroyed, and communications with Earth will cease. Impressively, a shoebox-sized CubeSat supplied by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) will ride with DART.

The 14 kg LICIACube You will separate from DART fifteen days prior to impact to capture images of the avalanche and the resulting cloud of ejecta.

Closer to Hira

HERA: ESA’s Planetary Defense Mission

To fully understand the impact of DART, once the dust has settled, the European Space Agency’s Hera mission will launch in 2024 and arrive at the Didymos asteroid system two years later to conduct high-resolution visual mapping, laser and radio science of the asteroid moon and assess the consequences of this. the influence.

With the Hera launched, arriving at Didymos’ pair and sending its data home, and completing this impressive first planetary defense test, ESA’s Estrack Network will have this vital space data back home.

Live coverage of the DART impact with the asteroid Dimorphos will also be broadcast on NASA TV starting at 6 p.m. EDT and NASA. website. The public can also watch the live broadcast on NASA’s social media accounts FacebookAnd the TwitterAnd the Youtube.