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Psyche Set To Soar: NASA’s Date With a Metal-Rich Asteroid

This illustration depicts NASA’s Psyche spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Now that fueling and testing are complete, NASAEstablished in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Its vision is "To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity." Its core values are "safety, integrity, teamwork, excellence, and inclusion." NASA conducts research, develops technology and launches missions to explore and study Earth, the solar system, and the universe beyond. It also works to advance the state of knowledge in a wide range of scientific fields, including Earth and space science, planetary science, astrophysics, and heliophysics, and it collaborates with private companies and international partners to achieve its goals.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>NASA’s Psyche spacecraft is ready to meet its ride – a SpaceXCommonly known as SpaceX, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company that was founded by Elon Musk in 2002. Headquartered in Hawthorne, California, the company designs, manufactures, and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. SpaceX's ultimate goal is to reduce space transportation costs and enable the colonization of Mars.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. The launch is now targeting 10:34 a.m. EDTEDT is an abbreviation for Eastern Daylight Time, the time zone for the eastern coast of the United States and Canada when observing daylight saving time (spring/summer). It is four hours behind Coordinated Universal Time. New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston, and the Kennedy Space Center are in the Eastern Time Zone (ET).” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>EDT on Thursday, October 5 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after optimizing the trajectory for the mission to study a metal-rich asteroid.

Craft Integration

Technicians connected Psyche to the payload attach fitting at Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville, Florida. This hardware allows Psyche to connect to the top of the rocket once it’s secure inside the protective payload fairings.

Technicians Work on NASA’s Psyche Spacecraft

Technicians connect NASA’s Psyche spacecraft to the payload attach fitting inside the clean room at Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville, Florida on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Mission Objective

Psyche’s journey through space will last nearly six years and about 2.2 billion miles (3.6 billion kilometers) before reaching an asteroid of the same name, which is orbiting the Sun between MarsMars is the second smallest planet in our solar system and the fourth planet from the sun. It is a dusty, cold, desert world with a very thin atmosphere. Iron oxide is prevalent in Mars' surface resulting in its reddish color and its nickname "The Red Planet." Mars' name comes from the Roman god of war.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>Mars and JupiterJupiter is the largest planet in the solar system and the fifth planet from the sun. It is a gas giant with a mass greater then all of the other planets combined. Its name comes from the Roman god Jupiter.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>Jupiter. Scientists believe Psyche could be part of the core of a planetesimal, likely made of iron-nickel metal. The ore will not be mined but studied from orbit in hopes of giving researchers a better idea of what may make up Earth’s core.

Innovative Onboard Technology

Additionally, the Psyche spacecraft will host a pioneering technology demonstration: NASA’s DSOC (Deep Space Optical Communications) experiment. This laser communications system will test high-bandwidth optical communications to Earth for the first two years of Psyche’s journey.

Falcon Heavy Demo Mission

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy test flight launches from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on February 6, 2018. Credit: SpaceX

About SpaceX Falcon Heavy

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is a powerful and partially reusable heavy-lift launch vehicle, conceived by Elon Musk’s space exploration company. Essentially an amalgamation of three Falcon 9 first-stage cores, the Falcon Heavy boasts a staggering 27 engines that fire simultaneously at liftoff. With the capability to transport up to 64 metric tons to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), it ranks among the most potent rockets in operation today.

A hallmark feature of the Falcon Heavy, in line with SpaceX’s broader philosophy, is its reusability. After stage separation, its cores are designed to return, land, and be prepared for future flights.

The rocket made its debut on February 6, 2018, carrying an unconventional payload: Elon Musk’s red Tesla Roadster, with “Starman,” a mannequin, seated inside. This car now orbits the sun.

Designed for diverse missions, from deploying satellites to potential interplanetary ventures, the Falcon Heavy stands as a significant milestone in modern space technology.

Source: SciTechDaily