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Date: Tuesday, October 10, 2023
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This goes

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Psyche

“For the first time ever, we are exploring a world made not of rock or ice, but of metal,” is the motto of Psyche mission, a collaboration effort between NASA and Arizona State University (ASU), which will send a spacecraft to study a metal-rich asteroid thought to be the core of an early planetesimal.

16 Psyche is an asteroid that orbits the Sun between Mars and Jupter. Due to it being rich with metal, it is believed to be a remnant core of an early planetesimal from the infancy of the Solar System.

NASA’s Psyche Asteroid Mission is designed to study this floating piece of rock, to determine whether it truly was or was not a planetary core. If found to be, this would be a breakthrough for scientists who have not yet been able to study our own core, as Earth’s core is too deep to drill to.

“This is the part of planets that we can’t sample directly today,” said Maria Zuber, gravity science investigation lead at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Psyche gives us an opportunity to visit a core,” said Lindy Elkins-Taton, principal investigator at ASU, “the only way that humankind can ever do it.”

The team began work on the mission in 2011 which was originally approved to launch in August 2022, however, NASA recently announced it will need to postpone the launch due to shipment delays.

“Due to the late delivery of the spacecraft’s flight software and testing equipment, NASA does not have sufficient time to complete the testing needed ahead of its remaining launch period this year, which ends on Oct. 11,” said a statement from the agency. “The mission team needs more time to ensure that the software will function properly in flight.”

The spacecraft itself is nearly the size of a small car, although with panels deployed, it measures at about 81 feet wide and 24 feet tall. Psyche’s payload consists of several imagers, a gamma ray spectrometer, a neutron spectrometer, a magnetometer and two antennas. The magnetometer will be able to detect magnetic force, and if Psyche has some type of magnetic field, that is a strong indicator that it was once a core.

The flight path is not an easy one, as it will take Psyche several years to reach its destination at roughly 280-million miles off of Earth’s surface. Instead of using traditional rocket fuel, Psyche will gradually build speed using ion propulsion before flying past Mars where it will use a gravity assist. With its original launch date of August 2022, Psyche was set to reach the asteroid by early 2026 and it remains unsure when Psyche will now reach it.

“Flying to a distant metal-rich asteroid, using Mars for a gravity assist on the way there, takes incredible precision. We must get it right. Hundreds of people have put remarkable effort into Psyche during this pandemic, and the work will continue as the complex flight software is thoroughly tested and assessed,” said JPL Director Laurie Leshin. “The decision to delay the launch wasn’t easy, but it is the right one.”

After arrival, Psyche will spend 21 months measuring and mapping what it can of the asteroid, gradually tightening its orbit until it flies right above the surface.

“Studying the evolution of a planetary body is a detective story,” said NASA’s official Psyche trailer video. Through this mission, Psyche could offer a closer look at the interior of terrestrial planets like our own which could give us answers about better understanding Earth, as well as the formation of our Solar System.

Written by Brynn Shaffer for Supercluster

Image: NASA



On this

rocket

Falcon Heavy

Falcon Heavy is designed and manufactured by SpaceX in Hawthorne, California. It is derived from the Falcon 9 vehicle and consists of a strengthened Falcon 9 first stage as a central core with two additional first stages as strap-on boosters.

Total launches: 5

Total landings: 11

Total reflights: 6

Technical Specifications

Height: 70m / 229.6ft

Width: 12.2m / 39.9ft

Mass: 1,420,788kg / 3,125,735lb

Payload to LEO: 63,800 kg / 140,660 lb

Payload to GEO: 26,700 kg / 58,860 lb

Payload to Mars: 16,800 kg / 37,040 lb

Lineage

SpaceX conducted Falcon Heavy's first launch on February 6th, 2018, at 3:45 PM EST. The rocket carried a Tesla Roadster belonging to SpaceX founder Elon Musk, with a dummy dubbed "Starman" in the driver's seat.

The second Falcon Heavy launch occurred on April 11th, 2019. This launch successfully launched the Arabsat-6A satellite and all three booster rockets successfully returned to Earth except but the center core subsequently fell over and was lost during transport due to heavy seas.

The third Falcon Heavy launch successfully occurred on June 25th, 2019. This mission successfully launched multiple payloads including USAF STP-2, a space memorial for Celestis, and Lightsail-2. The mission also supported the U.S. Air Force National Security Space Launch certification process for the Falcon Heavy. The side boosters were successfully recovered but the center core failed to land and was destroyed on impact with the Atlantic Ocean.

The fourth Falcon Heavy mission, USSF-44 for the U.S. Space Force, successfully launched on November 1st, 2022 from Kennedy Space Center.

Photo by SpaceX

From this

launch site

LC-39A - Kennedy Space Center, Florida (FH)
October 10, 2023

NASA's historic Kennedy Space Center is located on Cape Canaveral, Florida, and has hosted decades of historic space missions since the early days of the Apollo program.

Today, Kennedy Space Center is a multi-user spaceport and hosts private companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, and others.

SpaceX leases Launch Complex 39A at NASA's flagship facility and uses the pad to launch its Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 rockets. The pad is also used to launch missions for the Commercial Crew Program for which SpaceX launches astronauts to the Space Station for NASA aboard their Crew Dragon capsule.

Launch Complex 39A was previously used by NASA to launch the Apollo 11 mission to land the first humans on the moon and Space Shuttle missions to assemble the International Space Station and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.

Boosters will

land here

Landing Zone 1 & 2
October 10, 2023

Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) is an 86-meter-wide circular landing pad at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and is one of two SpaceX booster landing pads at the Florida spaceport.

Built on former Launch Complex 13, LZ-1 was the site of SpaceX's first successful landing and recovery of a Falcon 9 on the ORBCOMM-2 mission in December 2015. Since then, it has hosted 16 landings.

The landing pad, as well as its twin, LZ-2 located a few dozen meters away, can support both single landings of a Falcon 9 or simultaneous landings of the two Falcon Heavy side boosters.

Photo by Jenny Hautmann for Supercluster

Center core

lands here

Atlantic Ocean
October 10, 2023

SpaceX will expend the center core of the Falcon Heavy rocket, and it will be dropped into the Atlantic Ocean.

After multiple failed attempts at recovering a Falcon Heavy center core on a droneship, SpaceX decided to expend the center cores and no longer try to recover them.

Here's where to view Psyche

Viewing Sites
  • Alan Shepard Park
  • A. Max Brewer Parkway Bridge
  • Saturn V Building / Banana Creek
  • Cherie Down Park
  • Cocoa Beach Pier
  • Exploration Tower
  • Jetty Park
  • Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
  • Lori Wilson Park
  • Playalinda Beach
  • Rotary Riverfront Park
  • Sand Point Park
  • Sidney Fischer Park
  • Space View Park

Space is for everyone. Here’s a link to share the launch with your friends.