NASA turns asteroid hunter again! Here is what Psyche spacecraft is looking for
NASA's Psyche spacecraft has embarked on a pioneering mission to investigate an asteroid, also named Psyche, rich in metals, which could provide invaluable insights into the formation of planets.
NASA's Psyche spacecraft has been successfully launched, embarking on a groundbreaking mission to explore an asteroid of the same name, which is a metal-rich world that holds the potential to shed light on the formation of rocky planets.
Integrated onto the Psyche spacecraft is NASA's Deep Space Optical Communications technology demonstration, aimed at testing deep space laser communications for future exploration missions, providing increased data transmission bandwidth compared to traditional radio frequency communications.
NASA Psyche mission
Shortly after launch, the spacecraft separated from the rocket, and it entered a planned safe mode, during which it performed minimal engineering activities while awaiting further commands from mission controllers on Earth.
Psyche established two-way communication at 11:50 a.m. EDT with NASA's Deep Space Network complex in Canberra, Australia, and initial telemetry reports indicated that the spacecraft is in good health.
The Psyche spacecraft is set to reach the 173-mile-wide metal-class asteroid by August 2029. This asteroid is unique due to its high iron-nickel metal content, which could signify it being a partial core of a planetesimal, a building block of an early planet.
The mission's goal is a 26-month science investigation, where it will orbit the asteroid and unlock valuable insights about planet formation.
The spacecraft relies on solar electric propulsion for its six-year journey to the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, using Mars' gravity as a slingshot to accelerate its journey.
During the first 100 days of the mission, a commissioning phase will ensure all flight systems are functioning correctly, including electric thrusters and scientific instruments.
The spacecraft was launched at 10:19 a.m. EDT from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.
Psyche is the 14th mission chosen under NASA's Discovery Program and is a collaborative effort led by Arizona State University, managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, with support from SpaceX and various technology demonstration projects.
More From This Section