NASA to launch KaBOOM system: new way to track asteroids

Will track asteroids 100,000 times better than before

By Justin Warmoth - Anchor

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA is launching a new way to track asteroids 100,000 times better than before.

This afternoon, NASA's Associate Administrator, Robert Lightfoot, announced that the Kennedy Space Center would be the test site for NASA's new asteroid initiative program.

The KaBOOM system consists of three radars that can determine the path of an asteroid 100,000 times more precisely than current optical methods.

"It's pretty exciting to see some of the changes that have been put in place and it's exciting to see so many public and private partnerships getting engaged here at the Kennedy Space Center and on the Space Coast," said Lightfoot.

According to NASA, the goal of KaBOOM is to prove that this system will allow future radar systems to characterize near-Earth objects in terms of size, shape, rotation, and trajectory of an oncoming asteroid.

Lightfoot said, "The work we are doing with SLS and Orion is going to let us take humans to an asteroid at some point."

With future plans to put humans on asteroids, scientists need to be able to determine what asteroids are safe to explore.

Martin Seibert with the Kennedy Space Center said, "What we want to be able to do is swing over and point at an asteroid of interest and raise its orbit class code to something very well understood."

Although the Kennedy Space Center is only a test site for the new asteroid initiative, KaBOOM could still call the Space Coast home.

"If this succeeds, then we will build a larger array, either locally or somewhere else in the world," said Seibert.

NASA expects the KaBOOM system to be ready for testing in about 2 years.

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