The asteroid is 30 million kilometers from DART so navigation camera experts weren’t sure if DRACO could detect the asteroid yet. But, by combining the 243 images, the team managed to sharpen the image and thus reveal the location of Didymos.
The importance of this image
“This first set of images is being used as a test to test our imaging techniques“he counted Elena Adams, systems engineer for the DART mission at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. “It is important to show that DRACO is working properly and can see its target to make the necessary adjustments before we start using the images to guide the spacecraft towards the asteroid in a way autonomous“, he continued.
A series of navigation simulations were performed using non-DRACO Didymos images. But ultimately DART will depend on your ability to see and process images regarding asteroids. Because it will need to head toward the asteroid, especially in the last four hours before impact. At that stage of the mission, the ship must navigate itself to successfully hit Dimorphos.
What are the next steps of the mission?
For the next three weeks, the DART team will execute three trajectory correction maneuvers based on observations taken every five hours. Each redirect will further reduce the margin of error for the spacecraft’s required trajectory to impact correctly.
The final maneuver will be on September 25, approximately 24 hours before impact. At that time the navigation team will know the position of the Dimorphos target within a radius of 2 kilometers and, from there, It will begin autonomous navigation until the collision with the small moon of the asteroid is completed.