Credit: U.S. Space Force / Michael Peterson

The Vandenberg Space Force Base launched the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Tuesday night, carrying a defense test meant to intentionally collide with an asteroid. 

Colonel Rob Long, Space Launch Delta 30 commander, was the launch decision authority. “It takes the entire team for a safe and successful launch,” Long said. “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.” 

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sent out NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), the world’s first full-scale planetary defense test, into orbit from the base in Lompoc. 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, also referred to as a kinetic impact, at roughly 4 miles per second.

The target of the rocket is the asteroid moonlet Dimorphous, Greek for “two forms,” and is currently orbiting a larger asteroid named Didymos, Greek for “twin.” Dimorphous poses no threat to Earth.

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