SpaceX is the company that will put the NASA DART mission into space. DART is NASA’s ambitious mission to test our ability to redirect an asteroid away from Earth using the impact of a spacecraft. The goal is to determine if the planet is ever threatened by an asteroid that could cause death and destruction, can humanity deflect the asteroid preventing the impact. Yesterday, SpaceX successfully static fired the Falcon 9 rocket that will put DART into orbit.
With the static fire test complete, the Falcon 9 has been transported back to the integration hanger to have the DART spacecraft installed. Once the spacecraft is installed atop the rocket, it will be rolled out to the launchpad again. NASA’s DART mission is currently scheduled to launch as early as November 23.
However, exactly what orbit SpaceX will place DART into is a mystery at this time. There is a chance it will be placed into a geostationary transfer orbit, but it could be placed directly into deep space. Should SpaceX put DART directly into deep space, it would be its first launch of the type.
DART was successfully paired with the Falcon 9 payload adapter on November 10. Presumably, the final touches for getting the mission ready to launch are underway. The DART spacecraft will be encapsulated and soon will head back to the launchpad after the successful static fire test. DART arrived at Vandenberg in October to begin launch preparations. As always, SpaceX will attempt to land its first stage Falcon 9 rockets for reuse on later missions. As SpaceX is gearing up for the launch of DART, it’s also getting ready to put more Starlink satellites in orbit.
SpaceX will launch a different Falcon 9 rocket in only a few weeks to put a new batch of 53 Starlink satellites in orbit. Currently, that launch is set for Wednesday, December 1, 2021. This batch of 53 satellites are laser-linked to each other. SpaceX is currently working on getting as many satellites as possible into orbit to enable its Starlink network to provide broadband Internet connectivity anywhere in the world.
The first 4400 Starlink satellites going into orbit are split into five different shells or groups. Each of those shells has a different altitude and inclination, and they are critical to providing global coverage. The first of those five shells were completed in May. Each of the shells will be in a different orbital altitude and inclination, allowing them to cover different regions of the planet. Some of the satellites will be in a semi-polar orbit.
SpaceX has a busy quarter planned with CEO Elon Musk stating the company plans to launch about 175,000 pounds of payload in Q4 2021. There is space for two more Starlink launches this year. While SpaceX is working to put more satellites in orbit, the company is also improving its ground-based hardware customers use to connect to the service. It has been working on a ruggedized satellite dish appropriate for use on vehicles such as RVs, semi-trucks, boats, and aircraft.