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NASA's Psyche mission to metallic asteroid has a new launch date

NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, which is heading to a mysterious metallic asteroid, has been given a new launch date after delaying its August 2022 launch. The spacecraft missed its launch date due to technical issues with its software. June, but now it will launch in October 2023.

By launching at this time, the spacecraft can follow a flight profile similar to that previously planned. The spacecraft will fly by Mars to provide gravity assistance in 2026, and is scheduled to reach the asteroid Psyche in August 2029. The spacecraft will investigate the asteroid, also known as Psyche, which is thought to be made almost entirely of metal. Studying asteroids can help researchers understand how planets form, as asteroids may be in the early stages of becoming planetary cores.

This illustration, updated as of June 2020, depicts NASA’s Psyche spacecraft.
This illustration, updated in June 2020, depicts NASA’s Psyche spacecraft. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

After the Psyche mission missed its launch date, NASA and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) conducted an internal review of whether it could launch the mission in 2023, and further independent review of the technical issues that occurred and how the mission will be monitored. This independent review has not yet produced a final report, but it is expected to be shared publicly soon. “I thank the Independent Review Board and the JPL-led team for their hard work in making the mission a success,” Thomas Zubchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement. “The lessons learned from Psyche will be implemented across our mission portfolio. I am excited about the scientific insights Psyche will provide over its lifetime and its promise to help us understand the core of our own planet.” The team is now working to finish testing the Psyche spacecraft so it can be ready for launch next year. “I am very proud of the Psyche team,” said JPL Director Laurie Leshin. “In this review, they demonstrate that significant progress has been made towards future release dates. I have full confidence in the plan moving forward and am excited about the unique and important science that this mission will return.”

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