Team Vandenberg launched a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4 here today, Nov. 23, at 10:21 p.m. Pacific Time. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, the world’s first full-scale planetary defense test, into orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base. True to its name, DART is a focused mission, proving that a spacecraft can autonomously navigate to a target asteroid and intentionally collide with it (called a kinetic impact) at roughly 4 miles per second (6 kilometers per second). Its target, which poses no threat to Earth, is the asteroid moonlet.
“It takes the entire team for a safe and successful launch. I congratulate NASA on achieving the first step in this program’s journey on its planetary defense test mission. We are proud to be a part of this team,” said Col. Rob Long, Space Launch Delta 30 commander.
Space Launch Delta 30, Vandenberg’s host unit, supports West Coast launch activities for the U.S. Air Force, Department of Defense, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, national programs and various private industry contractors. SLD 30 supports the processing and launch of a variety of expendable vehicles including Atlas V, Delta IV, Pegasus, Minotaur, and Falcon 9. The Delta also supports Force Development and Evaluation of all intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as Missile Defense Agency (MDA) test and operations.
Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is a NASA space mission aimed at testing a method of planetary defense against near-Earth objects (NEO). It will deliberately crash a space probe into the double asteroid Didymos to test whether the kinetic energy of a spacecraft impact could successfully deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. DART is a joint project between NASA and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), administered by NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, with several NASA laboratories and offices providing technical support. International partners, such as the space agencies of Europe, Italy, and Japan, are contributing to related or subsequent projects.