Main Engine Cut Off

SpaceX Wins DART Launch, Drops Lucy Protest

The total cost for NASA to launch DART is approximately $69 million, which includes the launch service and other mission related costs.

The DART mission currently is targeted to launch in June 2021 on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. By using solar electric propulsion, DART will intercept the asteroid Didymos’ small moon in October 2022, when the asteroid will be within 11 million kilometers of Earth.

A solid $30 million under their previous NASA science mission contracts, but DART is only 500 kilograms, so will likely be sharing its ride. It’ll be interesting to see who rides along, especially out of Vandenberg.

Didymos is a pretty easily accessible asteroid, and when you consider DART’s size and its electric propulsion, the mission has a lot of flexibility in its profile.

Speaking of SpaceX and NASA science missions, SpaceX has withdrawn its protest of the Lucy contract. I’ve yet to see a good scoop on what happened behind the scenes, but there was quite a bit of anxiety about the protest delaying the mission.

Maybe this was the best scenario all around—SpaceX makes a little noise, gets to talk with NASA about their concerns, and then backs off before the mission team becomes completely unhappy?