NASA on Track to Launch Metal Asteroid-Hunting Spaceship in October 2023

Like most other missions to space planned by agencies and organizations across the world, NASA's Psyche was hit by a series of delays. Scheduled to lift off in the summer and then in October 2022, the launch was pusched back during the hot days of last year because of "late delivery of the spacecraft's flight software and testing equipment," but also on account of some organizational issues.
Psyche asteroid rendering 9 photos
Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU
Psyche missionThe photo on the left captures an operating electric Hall thruster identical to those that will propel NASA's Psyche spacecraft, while the photo on the right shows a similar non-operating Hall thrusterNASA's Psyche spacecraft is photographed in July 2021 during the mission's assembly, test, and launch operations phaseNASA's Psyche spacecraft is photographed in July 2021 during the mission's assembly, test, and launch operations phaseNASA's Psyche spacecraft is photographed in July 2021 during the mission's assembly, test, and launch operations phaseIllustration of NASA's Psyche spacecraftNASA Psyche spacecraftPsyche asteroid
Back then, an independent review board topped the technical reasons for the delay with stuff like workforce issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, staffing, communication troubles, and even management oversight, both at NASA and at JPL, one of its partners for the mission.

Almost a year has passed since then, and we get word from the same independent review board of the space agency having fixed most of the issues. That's an important development, as it puts Psyche on track to depart our planet as soon as October this year.

"Our goals went beyond getting Psyche to the launch pad to improving JPL across the board as we work on missions that will help us better understand Earth, explore the solar system and the universe, and search for signs of life," said in a statement JPL director Laurie Leshin.

"Our strong response to the board's findings reinforces the notion that JPL can solve any problem with the right focus and attention."

It is unclear what steps NASA and JPL took to correct the issues with this mission, but we are told the lessons learned from what seems to have been mismanagement of Psyche will be implemented in the development of future missions, including the Europa Clipper and Mars Sample Return.

The Psyche spacecraft is of incredible importance for the future of our space exploration plans. The spaceship's target is a "unique metal asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter" named exactly the same way.

Psyche the asteroid has a diameter of 140 miles (226 km) and a surface area of 64,000 square miles (165,000 square km). It was chosen as an object of study because it's similar to an exposed nickel-iron planet core, and those are believed to have been a long, long time ago some of the building blocks of our solar system. Meaning, of course, the metal ball could teach us a lot about our past, how planets were born, and what hides at their core.

After leaving our planet, Psyche the spacecraft will travel to a distance of 300 million miles (480 million km), and is scheduled to reach the asteroid sometime in 2029. It will remain in orbit around the piece of floating wonders for about two years, more than enough time, NASA believes, to have a comprehensive look at the place.
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram X (Twitter)
About the author: Daniel Patrascu
Daniel Patrascu profile photo

Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories