NASA's Psyche asteroid mission is on track to launch in October 2023, after a one-year delay due to software issues, agency officials said.
"The Psyche project is targeting an October 2023 launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket," NASA officials wrote (opens in new tab) in an update on Wednesday (Jan. 25), echoing timing predictions made late last year. Also on board the powerful Falcon Heavy will be a technology demonstration to assess high-speed communications in space.
The Psyche spacecraft was supposed to launch for a strange metal asteroid, also called Psyche, in the main asteroid belt no later than October 2022. But that plan was derailed by issues with Psyche's flight software. Last summer, NASA postponed the liftoff and initiated a "continuation/termination" review of the mission.
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The review featured a separate independent investigation commissioned by NASA and the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, which manages the Psyche mission.
By October 2022, the review team had done enough to work for NASA to determine it was feasible to continue the mission for a launch one year hence. But there will be some changes to make the new launch date.
The 2023 launch will bring Psyche to its namesake asteroid in August 2029, rather than early 2026. That's due to a different trajectory, NASA has said. The change meant NASA had to remove from the launch manifest its Janus smallsat mission to study two separate binary asteroid systems, as the new trajectory will not suit Janus' needs.
NASA's Deep Space Optical Communications will ride with Psyche as planned, since it is integrated into the main asteroid probe. The agency is working through budget implications for the Psyche mission and the rest of its solar system portfolio.
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