NASA's DART program will research ways to deflect asteroids from Earth. NASA

Asteroids are one of space’s many dangers, but an upcoming NASA project looks to prevent major ones from heading in Earth’s direction.

NASA is starting development and design on the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), a project that will look for ways to deflect asteroids before they reach Earth, according to an agency release.

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“DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique -- striking the asteroid to shift its orbit -- to defend against a potential future asteroid impact,” NASA planetary defense officer Lindley Johnson said in a statement. “This approval step advances the project toward an historic test with a non-threatening small asteroid.”

For DART, NASA wants to target the Didymos asteroid body, a twin system that is expected to make a distant approach near Earth in 2022 and 2024. The body consists of asteroid Didymos A, around 780 meters in size, and Didymos B, which is around 160 meters wide. According to NASA, DART wants to target only Didymos B.

As part of DART, the craft would fly towards Didymos and use an on-board targeting system to launch itself at Didymos B at a speed of around 3.7 miles per second. From the test, NASA wants to see how effective DART could be at preventing future larger asteroids. NASA believes that while the impact would only affect the velocity of the asteroid by a small margin, doing this early enough could alter its trajectory enough when it gets closer to Earth.

Check out this video from NASA to see what the agency wants to accomplish with DART:

In a release, Andy Cheng, DART co-leader from Johns Hopkins University, said the project is vitally important to developing future ways to protect to Earth.

“DART is a critical step in demonstrating we can protect our planet from a future asteroid impact,” Cheng said. “Since we don’t know that much about their internal structure or composition, we need to perform this experiment on a real asteroid. With DART, we can show how to protect Earth from an asteroid strike with a kinetic impactor by knocking the hazardous object into a different flight path that would not threaten the planet.”

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The project also comes alongside NASA’s new Planetary Defense Coordination Office, which was launched to help NASA develop and prepare ways to prevent or avoid the threat that a potential impact could cause. The agency has also been working on ways to digitally simulate potential asteroid impacts in order to learn about their possible scale and effects. NASA has recently focused on simulating a 2013 asteroid impact on the Russian city of Chelyabinsk to learn more about asteroid destruction and changes when they transition through the atmosphere.