NASA announced on Friday that its Psyche mission will proceed, with a launch window opening on Oct. 10, 2023.
Psyche missed its planned 2022 launch date earlier this year due to mission development issues. It prompted an internal review of whether the mission would be able to overcome these issues in time to launch successfully in 2023.
A project-proposed mission replan and a separate independent review, commissioned in June by NASA and the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, informed this continuation/termination review.
“I commend the independent review board and the JPL-led team for their dedication to mission success,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Psyche’s lessons will be implemented across our entire mission portfolio. I am excited about the scientific insights that Psyche will provide during its lifetime. Also, its promise to contribute to our understanding of the core of our own planet.”
The independent review board is still finalising its report. It will be shared publicly once completed, along with NASA’s response.
In preparation for the 2023 launch, the mission team is still testing the spacecraft’s flight software. The new flight path is similar to the one that was originally planned for August 2022. It will use a Mars gravity assist in 2026 to send the spacecraft to the asteroid Psyche. With a launch date of October 2023, the Psyche spacecraft will arrive at the asteroid in August 2029.
“I’m very proud of the Psyche team,” JPL Director Laurie Leshin said. “During this review, they demonstrated significant progress toward the anticipated launch date. I am confident in the plan’s progress and excited about the unique and important science that this mission will bring back.”
Psyche was chosen by NASA in 2017 to investigate a previously unknown metal-rich asteroid of the same name. It is part of the agency’s Discovery Program. It consists of a series of low-cost, competitive missions led by a single principal investigator. NASA is continuing to evaluate options for its Janus mission. It which was originally scheduled to launch on the same SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket as Psyche. NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications technology demonstration, which tests high-data-rate laser communications, has been integrated into the Psyche spacecraft and will continue on the new launch date as planned.