NASA’s Psyche Mission Targeting Oct. 12 for Launch

 

Psyche spacecraft, shown close to a colorful asteroid.
Artist’s concept illustration depicting the spacecraft of NASA’s Psyche mission near the mission’s target, the metal asteroid Psyche.

NASA and SpaceX are now targeting Oct. 12 at 10:16 a.m. EDT for a Falcon Heavy launch of the Psyche mission from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. The change allows the NASA team to complete verifications of the parameters used to control the Psyche spacecraft’s nitrogen cold gas thrusters. These thrusters are used to point the vehicle in support of science, power, thermal and other demands, such as spacecraft orientation and momentum management. The parameters were recently adjusted in response to updated, warmer temperature predictions for these thrusters. Operating the thrusters within temperature limits is essential to ensure the long-term health of the units.

The verification activities involve rerunning simulations and fine-tuning adjustments as required to the flight parameters and procedures.

NASA, SpaceX, and Psyche mission managers met today, Sept. 28, to conduct a Flight Readiness Review (FRR) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During the FRR, teams provided an update on the mission status, and certified the readiness to initiate final launch preparation activities including a static fire test on Sept. 29.

Psyche has launch opportunities every day between Oct. 12 and Oct. 25.

Psyche Spacecraft Headed for Xenon Fueling

NASA's Psyche spacecraft is crated and moved by truck to Astrotech Building 9 for xenon fueling.
Technicians moved NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, secured for transport, into the entrance of Building 9 at the Astrotech Space Operations Facility near the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Aug. 14, 2023. This move will allow a team of technicians and engineers to load the spacecraft with xenon gas. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

NASA’s Psyche spacecraft took another step closer on its upcoming journey to a metal-rich asteroid of the same name. On Aug. 14, a team of technicians and engineers moved the spacecraft from Building 1 to Building 9 at Astrotech Space Operations facility near the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Inside Building 9, technicians will load about one metric ton of xenon gas into seven 22-gallon tanks inside the spacecraft.

Psyche’s solar electric propulsion will use large solar arrays to convert sunlight into electricity, which will power four Hall thrusters. The thrusters will use electric and magnetic fields to accelerate and expel charged xenon particles, or ions, to create thrust and propel the spacecraft to its destination after launch. The thrusters will operate one at a time and will have a blue glow from the xenon.

Psyche is targeted to launch Oct. 5 atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy. After launch, Psyche is set to arrive at the asteroid in July 2029, where it will spend 26 months gathering observations that will help scientists learn more about planetary formation.

In addition to its primary mission, Psyche has NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) technology demonstration onboard the spacecraft. DSOC will be the agency’s first demonstration of optical communication beyond the Moon. DSOC will send test data to and from Earth using an invisible near-infrared laser, which has much higher bandwidth than radio wave systems currently used on spacecraft.

Solar Arrays Successfully Installed on NASA’s Psyche Spacecraft

Solar arrays for NASA’s Psyche spacecraft near Kennedy Space Center in Florida
Technicians begin to retract one of the two solar arrays attached to NASA’s Psyche spacecraft. This photo was taken on July 25 inside the Astrotech Space Operations facility near the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA’s Psyche spacecraft has completed another milestone. Solar arrays are now ready to power the spacecraft on a 2.5-billion-mile (4-billion-kilometer) journey to a metal-rich asteroid to help us learn more about planet formation. A team of engineers and technicians received, prepared, and installed the solar arrays on the spacecraft at the Astrotech Space Operations Facility near the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Learn more about the solar arrays here: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/huge-solar-arrays-permanently-installed-on-nasa-s-psyche-spacecraft