NASA Announces Launch Delay for Psyche Asteroid Mission

This illustration depicts NASA’s Psyche spacecraft (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA announced Friday the Psyche asteroid mission, the agency’s first mission designed to study a metal-rich asteroid, will not make its planned 2022 launch attempt.

Due to the late delivery of the spacecraft’s flight software and testing equipment, NASA does not have sufficient time to complete the testing needed ahead of its remaining launch period this year, which ends on Oct. 11. The mission team needs more time to ensure that the software will function properly in flight.

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Science of Psyche: Unique Asteroid Holds Clues to Early Solar System

At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, engineers integrate a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer into the agency’s Psyche spacecraft. The instrument will help determine the elements that make up its target, an asteroid also named Psyche. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Set to launch next year, NASA’s Psyche mission marks the first time the agency has set out to explore an asteroid richer in metal than rock or ice.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — More than 150 years have passed since novelist Jules Verne wrote “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” but reality has yet to catch up with that science fiction adventure. While humans can’t bore a path to our planet’s metallic core, NASA has its sights set on visiting a giant asteroid that may be the frozen remains of the molten core of a bygone world.

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Solar Electric Propulsion Makes NASA’s Psyche Spacecraft Go

NASA’s Psyche spacecraft is photographed in July 2021 during the mission’s assembly, test, and launch operations phase at JPL. Hall thrusters – two of which are visible beneath red round protective covers – will propel the spacecraft to its target in the main asteroid belt. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Futuristic electric thrusters emitting a cool blue glow will guide the Psyche spacecraft through deep space to a metal-rich asteroid.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — When it comes time for NASA’s Psyche spacecraft to power itself through deep space, it’ll be more brain than brawn that does the work. Once the stuff of science fiction, the efficient and quiet power of electric propulsion will provide the force that propels the Psyche spacecraft all the way to the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The orbiter’s target: a metal-rich asteroid also called Psyche.

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Asteroid 16 Psyche Might Not Be What Scientists Expected

Artist rendition of the asteroid Psyche. (Credit: Peter Rubin/ASU)

New UArizona research finds that the target asteroid of NASA’s Psyche mission may not be as metallic or dense as previously predicted.

By Mikayla Mace Kelley
University of Arizona Communications

The widely studied metallic asteroid known as 16 Psyche was long thought to be the exposed iron core of a small planet that failed to form during the earliest days of the solar system. But new University of Arizona-led research suggests that the asteroid might not be as metallic or dense as once thought, and hints at a much different origin story.

Scientists are interested in 16 Psyche because if its presumed origins are true, it would provide an opportunity to study an exposed planetary core up close. NASA is scheduled to launch its Psyche mission in 2022 and arrive at the asteroid in 2026.

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NASA Science Budget Request Fact Sheet

Europa Clipper in orbit around Europa. (Credit: NASA)

NASA FACT SHEET
FY 2022 Budget Request
Science
($ Millions)

NASA’s Science budget, managed by the Science Mission Directorate, includes five major science areas as well as the James Webb Space Telescope which is funded separately from Astrophysics. These areas include:

  • Earth Science to enhance understanding of Earth systems and to observe the effects of climate change. The Budget invests heavily in climate and applications research, begins formulation of the first four Designated Observable missions, and initiates the Earth System Explorers program (consistent with Decadal Survey recommendations). The Budget also supports the ongoing development of the Earth System Observatory including PACE, CLARREO Pathfinder, NISAR, SWOT, and Landsat 9.
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NASA Space Technology Budget Request Fact Sheet

NASA’s Psyche mission to a distant metal asteroid will carry a revolutionary Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package. This artist’s concept shows Psyche spacecraft with a five-panel array. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

NASA FACT SHEET
FY 2022 Budget Request
Space Technology
($ Millions)

The Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) develops transformative, cross-cutting technologies that lead to research and technology breakthroughs to enable NASA’s missions and is broadening its focus on cross-cutting space technologies that will support creating good jobs in a growing space industry.

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NASA Begins Final Assembly of Spacecraft Destined for Asteroid Psyche

In late March of 2021, a main component of NASA’s Psyche spacecraft was delivered to JPL, where assembly, test, and launch operations are underway. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Set to launch next year, the agency’s Psyche spacecraft will explore a metal-rich asteroid in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A major component of NASA’s Psyche spacecraft has been delivered to the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, where the phase known as assembly, test, and launch operations is now underway. Over the next year, the spacecraft will finish assembly and undergo rigorous checkout and testing before it’s shipped to Cape Canaveral, Florida, for an August 2022 launch to the main asteroid belt.

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SwRI Study Offers More Complete View of Massive Asteroid Psyche

Artist rendition of the asteroid Psyche. (Credit: Peter Rubin/ASU)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (SwRI PR) — A new study authored by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) planetary scientist Dr. Tracy Becker discusses several new views of the asteroid 16 Psyche, including the first ultraviolet observations. The study, which was published today in The Planetary Science Journal and presented at the virtual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences, paints a clearer view of the asteroid than was previously available.

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