The T-Minus DART is a system for fast and low-cost probing of the upper atmosphere. A certain part of the atmosphere is hardly investigated until now. At altitudes between 50 and 120 km, the air density is too low for balloons to float, and too high for satellites to maintain their orbit. Sounding rockets can be used to perform in-situ measurements, but these are usually too expensive for simple and frequent missions.
The T-Minus DART system is designed to fill this void. With this low-cost and rapidly deployable rocket system, small payloads can be launched to altitudes above 120 km, from which they can descend through the atmosphere and perform in-situ measurements. The vehicle consists of a lightweight and powerful booster motor and a dart-shaped payload compartment. The booster diameter is 114 mm, compatible with existing Viper IIIA launch equipment. The diameter of the dart is only 35 mm, in order to minimize drag losses.
Download T-Minus DART information leaflet
Three types of payload are currently envisioned:
The maximum payload volume is 30 x 250 mm (DxL) The use of a recovery / deceleration system is optional for increased measurement time.
Range test vehicle
Other than the use as scientific probing vehicle, the DART serves as an excellent range test vehicle as well. Its small size, low cost and ease of operation make it an ideal platform to quickly map the weather conditions in the higher layers of the atmosphere. Next to that, the correct functioning of range equipment such as telemetry and radar stations can easily be verified in realistic mission conditions.
Upon ignition, the booster provides thrust for 6.5 seconds. After burnout, the aerodynamic forces cause vehicle separation and the dart coasts until it reaches apogee altitude, approximately 150 seconds into the flight. Here, the recovery system is activated, so that the measurement time is maximized. The booster follows a ballistic trajectory until it impacts on the ground.