Experiments at the Experimental Projectile Impact Chamber (EPIC) at CAB INTA-CSIC in support of the DART-Hera space missions

On November 24, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission was launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The spacecraft is now traveling through space until the end of next September when it 10.6 million km from Earth will make a head-on collision with the 160m wide asteroid Dimorphos. This asteroid is orbiting its 780 m wide mother asteroid Didymos. The intention with the collision is to see how much the orbital period of Dimorphos is affected by a kinetic impact of a given magnitude. Two years later the Hera spacecraft will be launched with an expected arrival in late 2026. It will study the DART crater in great detail. Altogether, this full-scale experiment will provide data for the ongoing development of numerical codes that will be used to calculate what measures are needed in eventual future kinetic mitigation attempts of potentially Earth-threatening asteroids. With an early enough warning it may be possible to push an asteroid out of its collision course with Earth. Important for the validation of these codes are also laboratory impact experiments into targets of special configurations. For instance, both Didymos and Dimorphos are thought to be so-called rubble-pile asteroids. An impact into such material will likely behave much different from that into solid rock. Here the EPIC at CAB INTA-CSIC has proven very useful in providing experimental data to the code developers. We will present results from some of these experiments, which may give you a visual idea on how the DART impact on Dimorphos will look like.


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