By James Rogers
The successful collision of a NASA spacecraft with an asteroid lifted space sector stocks before market open Tuesday.
The vending-machine sized spacecraft successfully collided with asteroid Dimorphos at 7:14 pm ET Monday. The asteroid moonlet is just 530 feet in diameter, orbiting a much larger 2,650-foot diameter asteroid named Didymos. Launched in November 2021 atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test marks NASA’s first attempt to move an asteroid in space. Neither Dimorphos nor Didymos poses a threat to Earth, according to NASA.
Space stocks are basking in the warm afterglow of the mission on Tuesday.
Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/208333884/composite SPCE -0.39% is up 2.5% before market open, while rocket specialists Rocket Lab USA Inc. /zigman2/quotes/222592018/composite RKLB -2.35% and Aerojet RocketDyne Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205342146/composite AJRD -1.34% are up 3.8% and 2.5%, respectively. Momentus Inc. /zigman2/quotes/208519272/composite MNTS +0.91% , which provides satellite transportation and servicing, is up 2.8%, while defense and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin Corp. /zigman2/quotes/200691238/composite LMT -1.12% is up 1.8%.
Shares of satellite company Maxar Technologies Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201591991/composite MAXR -2.45% , which ended Monday’s session down 4.3%, are up 2.7% in premarket trading.
“The mission’s one-way trip confirmed NASA can successfully navigate a spacecraft to intentionally collide with an asteroid to deflect it, a technique known as kinetic impact,” said NASA, in a statement . Investigators will now use ground-based telescopes to confirm that DART’s impact altered Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos. “Researchers expect the impact to shorten Dimorphos’ orbit by about 1%, or roughly 10 minutes; precisely measuring how much the asteroid was deflected is one of the primary purposes of the full-scale test.”
NASA’s DART mission is built and managed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.
“Why are we doing this? This technique could be used to deflect an Earth-threatening asteroid, should one ever be discovered,” tweeted NASA Adminstrator Bill Nelson, on Monday.
“This one is for the dinosaurs,” quipped the @DARTprobe Twitter account.