SpaceX confirms fueling for the second stage of the Falcon Heavy rocket carrying the Psyche spacecraft is underway at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Three Falcon 9 engine cores, each housing nine Merlin engines, make up the Falcon Heavy and combine to generate more than five million pounds of thrust at liftoff – equal to approximately 18 747 aircraft.
Merlin engines – originally designed for recovery and reuse – use RP-1 and liquid oxygen as rocket propellants in a gas-generator power cycle.
Falcon Heavy utilizes the same second stage and same payload fairing as flown on Falcon 9.
In about 25 minutes, engine chill will begin on the rocket in preparation for launch, followed by the rocket and spacecraft transitioning to internal power.
NASA just ramped up its coverage of today’s Psyche launch, as the live broadcast with commentary has now begun. Tune in to NASA Television, the NASA app, YouTube, X, Facebook, Twitch, Daily Motion, or the NASA UHD channel starting now for launch day commentary, interviews, and everything you need to know about the launch of today’s unique mission to a metal-rich asteroid.
You can also follow along on the launch blog, which originates from the NASA News Center here at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a few miles from Launch Complex 39A. There’s more to come, so stay with us.
Moments ago, mission teams polled “go” to begin fueling the Falcon Heavy’s three first-stage core boosters.
The Falcon Heavy is a two-stage rocket with a central core and two side boosters that uses RP-1 (a refined kerosene) and liquid oxygen (LOX) to fuel its 27 Merlin engines, which combine to generate 5,000,000 pounds of thrust. Loading of the RP-1 and LOX is now underway.
The NASA Television media channel provides clean feeds of the agency’s news, briefings, and conferences, daily video files from around the agency, and the only available feeds of mission coverage that contain only mission audio and natural sound.
The Psyche spacecraft will launch weighing over 6,000 pounds, with its body, or bus, spanning 16.1 feet tall, including the 6.6-foot booms for two instruments, 7.1 feet wide, and 7.8 feet deep. With its two five-panel, cross-shaped solar panels fully deployed, Psyche would just about cover a tennis court at 81 feet by 24 feet. The solar arrays will produce 21 kilowatts of power when leaving the Earth and between 2.3 and 3.4 kilowatts of power during orbit around the asteroid.
The Psyche spacecraft carries multiple science instruments that will help scientists learn more about the metal-rich asteroid:
Psyche’s multispectral imager consists of a pair of identical cameras equipped with filters and telescopic lenses to photograph the surface of the asteroid in different wavelengths of light. The cameras can take pictures in the part of the spectrum visible to the human eye, as well as in near-infrared wavelengths of light beyond what humans can see.
The probe’s gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer will help scientists determine the chemical elements that make up the asteroid’s surface material. As cosmic rays and high energy particles bombard the asteroid Psyche’s surface, the elements there absorb the energy. In response, they emit neutrons and gamma rays of varying energy levels. The spectrometer can detect these emissions, enabling scientists to match them to properties of known elements to determine what Psyche is made of.
The spacecraft’s magnetometer will look for evidence of an ancient magnetic field at the asteroid Psyche. Unlike Earth and other rocky planets that generate a magnetic field in their liquid metallic cores, small bodies such as asteroids do not generate one at the present time because they have cooled and long been solid. Confirmation of a remanent magnetic field at Psyche would be strong evidence that the asteroid formed from the core of a planetary body.
The Psyche science team will rely on the telecommunications system, primarily used to send commands to and receive data from the spacecraft, to conduct gravity science. By analyzing the X-band radio waves the spacecraft communicates with, scientists can measure how asteroid Psyche affects the spacecraft’s orbit. From that information, scientists can determine the asteroid’s rotation, mass, and gravity field, providing additional clues about the composition and structure of Psyche’s interior.
The Psyche spacecraft also will carry an experiment that will demonstrate NASA’s farthest-ever test of high-bandwidth optical communications. NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications experiment, or DSOC, will send and receive test data using an invisible near-infrared laser, which can transmit data at 10 to 100 times the bandwidth of conventional radio wave systems used on spacecraft today. The DSOC technology demonstration takes place during the first two years of the roughly six-year journey to Psyche. As the first demonstration of deep space laser communications, DSOC could pave the way for broadband communications that will help support humanity’s next great leap: when NASA sends astronauts to Mars.
Liftoff is targeted for just over an hour from now, at 10:19 a.m. EDT, on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA’s Psyche mission is a journey to a unique metal-rich asteroid – also named Psyche, after the goddess of the soul in ancient Greek mythology. The asteroid Psyche orbits the Sun between Mars and Jupiter and is unique in that it appears to be part or all of the iron-rich interior of a planetesimal, an early planetary building block of our solar system.
One of Psyche’s mission goals is to understand iron cores, a previously unexplored component of planet formation.
Deep within rocky, terrestrial planets – including Earth – scientists infer the presence of metallic cores, which lie unreachably far below the planets’ rocky mantles and crusts. Because we can’t see or measure Earth’s core directly, Psyche offers a unique opportunity to meet another mission goal of learning more about the violent history of collisions and accretion – the coming together of matter under the influence of gravitation to form larger bodies – that created terrestrial planets like ours.
The Psyche mission has the following science objectives:
Determine whether Psyche is a core, or if it is unmelted material
Determine the relative ages of regions of Psyche’s surface
Determine whether small metal bodies incorporate the same light elements as are expected in the Earth’s high-pressure core
Determine whether Psyche was formed under conditions more oxidizing or more reducing than Earth’s core
Characterize Psyche’s morphology by measuring its topography
The Psyche mission is led by a team from Arizona State University. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California is responsible for mission management, operations, and navigation.
NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), based at Kennedy Space Center, is responsible for the insight and approval of the launch vehicle and manages the launch service for the Psyche mission. LSP certified the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket for use with the agency’s most complex and highest priority missions in early 2023 at the conclusion of a 2.5-year effort.
The spacecraft’s solar-electric propulsion chassis was built by Maxar Technologies in Palo Alto, California. It has a payload that includes two imagers, two magnetometers, and a gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer.
Liftoff is targeted for 10:19 a.m. EDT on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from historic Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.
Good morning, and welcome to live launch coverage from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida of the mission to Psyche, a metal-rich world! Psyche is the first mission to explore an asteroid with a surface that likely contains substantial amounts of metal rather than rock or ice.
This also will be NASA’s Launch Services Program’s first primary science mission launching on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. Integrated on the Psyche spacecraft is NASA’s technology demonstration DSOC (Deep Space Optical Communications). Teams are on console and will soon begin to fuel the rocket at Launch Complex 39A, in preparation for the 10:19 a.m. EDT launch time. Today’s launch attempt is an instantaneous launch window. Psyche has launch opportunities through Oct. 25.
Today’s launch blog comes to you from the NASA News Center here at Kennedy. You can watch live launch coverage without commentary beginning at 9:15 a.m. EDT on the NASA Television media channel. The live launch broadcast with commentary will begin at 9:30 a.m. on the NASA Television public channel and NASA UHD channel, as well as YouTube, X, Facebook, Twitch, Daily Motion, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. You also can continue following along right here on the blog as we take you through the entire flight profile for the Psyche mission.
Join the conversation, follow the launch, and get Psyche mission updates from these accounts:
Weather officials with Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s 45th Weather Squadron predict a 40% chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch of NASA’s Psyche mission at 10:19 a.m. EDT Friday, Oct. 13, on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Showers and storms are expected at the spaceport late Thursday, lasting through the Friday launch window. Primary weather concerns at launch are the anvil cloud, thick cloud layers, and cumulus cloud rules.
The next available launch window occurs at 10:24 a.m. EDT Saturday, Oct. 14. Weather officials forecast a 70% of favorable conditions for this launch opportunity, with the cumulus cloud rule as the primary weather concern.
Continue checking the Psyche blog for additional mission updates, or join the conversation on social media by following these accounts: