NASA’s Psyche mission to a metal-rich asteroid is back on the books for October 2023 • TechCrunch


NASA said Friday that its Psyche mission (named after the asteroid that the mission is targeting) has been rescheduled to October next year. The news comes a few months after the agency announced that it will permanently miss its planned 2022 launch attempt. The delayed schedule is due to delayed delivery of key components of the spacecraft, including flight programs and test equipment. This year’s launch window closed on October 11th.

NASA has conducted an internal review to determine whether the mission can be launched next year, as well as a separate independent review commissioned by the agency examining the failures that led to the missing launch window. The review seems to specify that next year’s launch is going.

While the launch window has changed, NASA said the flight profile will be similar: The spacecraft will use the gravity of Mars in 2026 to propel the spacecraft toward asteroid Psyche. If the mission moves forward next year, the spacecraft is scheduled to reach the asteroid in August 2029.

The mission, led by Arizona State University, will explore a metallic asteroid called “Psyche” located between Mars and Jupiter. It was chosen for exploration because scientists believe it is the nickel-iron core of a former planet, making it a rich target for understanding how our planet came to be. People with asteroid mining ambitions, of course, are also intrigued.

Total mission costs, including launch, $985 million; Of that, $717 million was spent through June. Two additional projects were to be launched with Psyche: a NASA mission called Janus, to explore a binary binary asteroid system, and a high-data-rate laser communications technical demonstration. The latter is already integrated with the Psyche spacecraft and will launch with it, but NASA is still exploring Janus’ options.

In February 2020, NASA announced that it had awarded the launch contract to SpaceX Worth $117 million. The agency has booked a flight on the Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket currently in operation that has flown only three times in its history. (The fourth could happen as early as next week.)

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