APL Integrates Aerojet Rocketdyne-Built Propulsion Tech for NASA’s DART Mission; Eileen Drake Quoted

Eileen Drake
Eileen Drake

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory has integrated chemical and electrical propulsion systems from Aerojet Rocketdyne into a spacecraft for NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission.

The primary structure will undergo final assembly and testing at the lab’s Laurel, Md. facility ahead of its launch aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California by July 2021, APL said Tuesday.

NASA’s DART mission is aimed at demonstrating the spacecraft’s kinetic impactor features intended to target planetary bodies and change their orbit to deflect hazardous elements such as rogue asteroids.

DART will undergo a 14-month traverse toward the Didymos asteroid system’s smaller Didymos B moon at a speed of 4 miles per second as part of the first mission under NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office. NASA expects DART to intercept Didymos B by September 2022.

Aerojet Rocketdyne delivered the chemical propulsion system on Friday along with the NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster – Commercial solar electric propulsion element from its location in Redmond, Wash., to APL, the company said in a separate statement

Eileen Drake, president and CEO of Aerojet Rocketdyne, said the company’s propulsion components were built to help the DART spacecraft reach the Didymos target while demonstrating their capacity for future space missions.

APL is slated to install an autonomous navigation system called Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical into DART over the next few months.

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