NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will be the first-ever mission to test a way to protect Earth from an asteroid strike. But to ensure DART hits its harmless test target, scientists and engineers at Johns Hopkins APL developed a guidance system unlike anything used on spacecraft before — a system that can direct a spacecraft entirely on its own without any human intervention.
SMART Nav is a set of computational algorithms on DART that, with the rest of the spacecraft's guidance and navigation system, will independently find the moonlet asteroid Dimorphos and guide the spacecraft into it. Scientists knew from the outset of DART's development that the mission would need an autonomous component, but it had to be very different -- something that was free to self-inform and make decisions on its own.
"With SMART Nav, it’s no longer about just keeping the spacecraft in a prescribed orientation or carrying out correction maneuvers. It’s about conducting the entirety of the last four hours of the mission without any human intervention", said Mark Jensenius, a guidance and navigation control engineer on the SMART Nav team at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. “It’s about locating objects in space, selecting the correct asteroid, estimating trajectory corrections and commanding maneuvers on-the-fly to achieve the higher-level directive of ‘hit Dimorphos.’”
Experience the full story of SMART Nav, the new technology that will help make DART’s kinetic impact with Dimorphos possible, in this new interactive scrolling story: https://www.jhuapl.edu/interactive/navigating-double-asteroid-redirection-test-on-its-own
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