The DART spacecraft is readied for system level testing to ensure all spacecraft components and systems are ready for flight.
Image courtesy of Orbital Sciences Corporation (Click image for full size.)
The Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART) mission was selected by NASA in 2001 as a high-risk technology demonstration project to advance capabilities in automated rendezvous and proximity operations and advanced video guidance sensor technology. DART was designated as a critical stepping stone in developing the capability to autonomously resupply the International Space Station (ISS). The goal was to move the technology from a readiness level (TRL) 4 to 7 - in other words, from component and/or breadboard validation in a laboratory environment to system prototype demonstration in a space environment.
At the beginning of the DART project, “...it was a Twenty-two Project Horse Race,” with the risk of cancellation looming large. DART was competing with 22 other mission candidates and had to move out very quickly just to survive the first 10-month “Termination Gate.”