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Johns Hopkins APL Helps Equip DART Spacecraft With NASA-Made Propulsion Tech

NEXT-C Johns Hopkins APL photo
NEXT-C, Johns Hopkins APL photo

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory has incorporated a propulsion technology built by NASA into a spacecraft designed to support the agency's demonstration of its first planetary defense capability.

NASA's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster-Commercial ion propulsion system employs solar energy for fuel efficiency and better performance and is meant to help the Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft carry out in-flight tests, Johns Hopkins APL said Tuesday.

APL worked with Aerojet Rocketdyne and a team from NASA's Glenn Research Center to facilitate the installation of NEXT-C into DART.

"The biggest part of that process was lifting the thruster bracket assembly off of the assembly table and positioning it at the top of the spacecraft," said Jeremy John, lead propulsion engineer for DART at APL.

John added the team lifted the thruster bracket with care to avoid damaging propellant lines.

DART is slated to lift off in 2021 aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and will work to strike the Dimorphos asteroid at high speed to redirect its movement.

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