NASA’s Psyche mission continues preparations for launch in 2023


NASA’s Psyche spacecraft is shown in a clean room at the Astrotech Space Operations Facility near Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft was powered up and connected to ground support equipment, allowing engineers and technicians to prepare it for launch in 2023. Teams at Astrotech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California continue to communicate with the spacecraft and monitor its systems. .

After a one-year delay to complete critical testing, Project Psyche plans to launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in October 2023. A demonstration of NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) technology, which tests high-data-rate laser communications integrated into the Psyche spacecraft. The silver cylinder shown in the photo is the sunshade for the DSOC and the gold blanket is the aperture cover for the DSOC payload.

The spacecraft’s target is a unique, metal-rich asteroid, also named Psyche, which lies in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The asteroid may be a partial core of a planetesimal, the building block of rocky planets in our solar system. Researchers will study Psyche with a suite of instruments including multispectral cameras, gamma-ray and neutron spectrometers (GRNS) and magnetometers. The GRNS and magnetometer sensors are visible in the photo as the tips of the two black protrusions at the far end of the spacecraft. Also visible here is a high-gain antenna that will allow the spacecraft to communicate with Earth.

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