November 30, 2021

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Photos: Falcon 9 rocket stands on Vandenberg launch pad with NASA asteroid probe

Photos: Falcon 9 rocket stands on Vandenberg launch pad with NASA asteroid probe
If you would like to see more articles like this please support our coverage of the space program by becoming a Spaceflight Now Member. If everyone who enjoys our website helps fund it, we can expand and improve our coverage further. These photos show SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket standing on Space Launch Complex 4-East at…

If you would like to see more articles like this please support our coverage of the space program by becoming a Spaceflight Now Member. If everyone who enjoys our website helps fund it, we can expand and improve our coverage further.


These photos show SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket standing on Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg Space Force Base, hours before liftoff with NASA’s DART mission, an experiment to test how a spacecraft might deflect a hazardous asteroid away from Earth.

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) launcher is awaiting blastoff at 10: 21: 02 p.m. EST Tuesday (1: 21: 02 a.m. EST; 0621: 02 GMT Wednesday) from Vandenberg, a military launch facility on California’s Central Coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, spacecraft is sitting on top of the rocket. The Falcon 9 will send the spacecraft — about the size of a small car — on a course toward a pair of companion asteroids named Didymos and Dimorphos.

DART will collide with Dimorphos — the smaller of the two — at around 15,000 mph (24,000 kilometers per hour) next September. Scientists will use ground-based telescopes to measure how much the impact, which will destroy the DART spacecraft, changed the orbit of Dimorphos around Didymos, its larger companion.

Didymos and Dimorphos are not a threat to Earth any time in the near future, but the kinetic impact technique could be used if scientists found an asteroid on a collision course with our planet. A deflection mission far enough in advance of the threat to Earth could nudge an asteroid into a different orbit, eliminating the hazard to our planet.

Read our preview story for details on the mission.

Credit: Gene Blevins / LA Daily News
Credit: Gene Blevins / LA Daily News
Credit: Brian Sandoval / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Brian Sandoval / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Brian Sandoval / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Brian Sandoval / Spaceflight Now

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.


If you would like to see more articles like this please support our coverage of the space program by becoming a Spaceflight Now Member. If everyone who enjoys our website helps fund it, we can expand and improve our coverage further.


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