NASA’s Psyche Spacecraft Has Successfully Launched! (Updated)

13th Oct 2023
NASA’s Psyche Spacecraft Has Successfully Launched! (Updated)

NASA’s groundbreaking mission to study a metallic asteroid known as “Psyche” is back on track. Follow all of the mission updates with OrbitalToday.

UPDATE 13 October

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy has launched the NASA Psyche spacecraft on its journey to the 16 Psyche heavy-metal asteroid from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. It will take nearly six years to traverse 4 billion kilometers to its target using an ion thruster, arriving in August 2029, where it will enter orbit around the potato-shaped object some 280 kilometers wide at its longest point.

The Psyche spacecraft is now coasting in Earth orbit, awaiting a final burn from the upper stage of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket that carried it to space. That burn will blast Psyche away from Earth, putting it on course for the main asteroid belt.

UPDATE 12 October

The long-awaited mission to metal asteroid, which was scheduled for 12 October, is postponed, SpaceX informs. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket was previously scheduled to take off from the NASA Kennedy Space Centre in Florida at around 10:16am EDT (3:16pm BST) today. Still, due to unfavourable weather conditions, the company is now targeting Friday, 13 October.

UPDATE 6 October

Coverage of the forthcoming prelaunch and launch activities for the Psyche mission, which is set to explore a metal-rich asteroid, will be provided by NASA. The launch is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 12, at 10:16 a.m. EDT. A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, lifting off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will be utilized for this mission.

Starting at 9:15 a.m. EDT, live launch coverage will be available on the NASA Television media channel, devoid of commentary. A live broadcast of the launch with commentary will commence at 9:30 a.m., and it will be aired on various platforms such as YouTube, X, Facebook, Twitch, Daily Motion, the NASA app, and the agency’s official website. The public channel of NASA TV will also broadcast coverage of a spacewalk outside the International Space Station.

In advance of the launch, a mission and science briefing will be held by NASA at noon on Tuesday, Oct. 10, followed by a prelaunch news conference at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 11.

Mysterious Psyche asteroid

The ambitious Psyche mission aims to study a unique asteroid located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Designated “16 Psyche,” this celestial body is composed primarily of metal, offering an unprecedented opportunity for scientists to explore a world unlike any other in our solar system. With its iron-nickel core and intriguing geological features, Psyche has captured the curiosity of researchers and space enthusiasts alike.

The mission was originally scheduled to launch in 2022; however, unforeseen challenges arose during the spacecraft’s development phase, prompting a necessary reassessment. Engineers and scientists worked diligently to rectify the technical setbacks, ultimately overcoming the obstacles that had hindered progress.

NASA's Psyche spacecraft
A team prepares NASA’s Psyche spacecraft for launch inside the Astrotech Space Operations Facility near the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in December 2022. Credit: Ben Smegelsky/NASA

The launch is scheduled for October 2023

Now, with the mission back on course, NASA plans to launch the Psyche spacecraft in the summer of 2023, utilizing a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. The spacecraft will undertake a 1.4 billion-mile journey, anticipated to take over four years, before finally reaching its destination.

Once the Psyche spacecraft arrives at 16 Psyche in early 2026, it will spend approximately 21 months orbiting and studying the asteroid up close. The spacecraft’s suite of scientific instruments will enable scientists to collect invaluable data on the asteroid’s surface, composition, and magnetic field. By examining Psyche’s metallic nature, researchers hope to gain insights into the early formation of our solar system and the building blocks that led to the creation of rocky planets like Earth.

The successful completion of the Psyche mission will deepen our understanding of the formation and evolution of asteroids and provide crucial information about the potential resources available in these celestial bodies. With its vast reserves of metals, 16 Psyche holds the possibility of harbouring valuable resources that could have implications for future space exploration and even sustainable resource utilization.

By unlocking the mysteries of Psyche, NASA’s mission promises to revolutionize our understanding of the cosmos while paving the way for future endeavours in space exploration. The invaluable knowledge gained from this extraordinary journey will contribute to humanity’s quest to unravel the enigmas of the universe and expand our reach beyond our home planet.

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