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NASA Spacecraft Completes Rigorous Testing in Preparation for Epic Space Journey

This year, NASA's Psyche spacecraft will travel through the vacuum of space to reach a rare metal-rich asteroid located in the main asteroid belt, somewhere between Mars and Jupiter. It's a long 1.5-billion-mile (2.4-billion-km) journey, and NASA wants to make sure that its spacecraft survives the harsh space environment.
NASA’s Psyche spacecraft seen on its way to the vacuum chamber 8 photos
NASA’s Psyche spacecraft is placed into the vacuum chamber at the Jet Propulsion LaboratoryIllustration of NASA's Psyche spacecraftNASA Psyche spacecraftPsyche asteroidNASA'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 phase
In preparation for its August launch, Psyche has recently completed a series of critical tests. To verify if the spacecraft is capable of withstanding the extreme space environment, a team of engineers at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California rolled it into a giant vacuum chamber for thermal-vacuum (TVAC) testing.

This allowed engineers to see how the spacecraft behaves in spacelike conditions where there's no air to help it regulate its temperature. TVAC testing lasted 18 days in total. Then, to make sure that the spacecraft could regulate its temperature, engineers exposed it to the warmest and coldest condition it would face while traveling to the asteroid.

After that, it underwent vibration, shock, and acoustics testing – which simulates launch conditions. When the rocket places the spacecraft into Earth's orbit, it will shake it violently, so the team must ensure that the machine can survive that.

Lastly, Psyche had to go through acoustic testing, which replicates the noise it will endure at launch. If a spacecraft isn't sturdy enough, the loud sound waves produced by the rocket can actually harm the hardware. So Psyche was "blasted with noise a hundred times louder than a typical rock concert."

After all the testing was completed, NASA determined that the spacecraft was in good condition and was ready to proceed toward launch. Soon, the machine will be moved from the JPL to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Psyche is expected to take off from Cape Canaveral in August. Once the spacecraft leaves our skies, it will take a swing past Mars for a gravitational push to reach its target: an intriguing metal-rich asteroid, also named Psyche.

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