SpaceX Falcon 9’s first interplanetary launch through NASA Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft is currently on its way to the Moon. It is part of the world’s first planetary defense mission. It blasted off at 1:21 am EST (06:21 UTC) with an expendable upper stage.Right on time, SpaceX’s flight-proven Falcon 9 booster lifted off with new fairing, and the ~630 kg (~1400 lb) DART spacecraft in tow, reaching a nominal low Earth parking orbit about eight minutes later. Half a minute after the second stage’s first engine ‘cutoff’ (SECO-1), booster B1063 safely landed on the drone ship, Of Course, I Still Love You (OCISLY), wrapping up its third orbital-class launch and spaceflight in twelve months.
Asteroid Dimorphos: we're coming for you!
— NASA (@NASA) November 24, 2021
Around 28 minutes after liftoff, Falcon 9’s orbital second stage fired up for the second and final time. In just 53 seconds, Falcon 9’s upper stage accelerated from a stable velocity (relative to Earth’s surface) of 7.5 kilometers per second (4.7 mi/s) to almost 11.1 km/s (6.9 mi/s), sending DART (and itself) from low Earth orbit (LEO) to an Earth escape trajectory that will ultimately leave them in orbit around the sun.
As the second Falcon hardware reaches interplanetary space, the upper stage will gradually passivate itself – depressurizing and safing batteries and flight termination systems as it prepares to spend the rest of its inactive life orbiting the sun. DART, on the other hand, has only just begun its mission.