SpaceX launch of NASA's Psyche asteroid mission is just 2 weeks away

technicians in white coats work on a shiny silvery spacecraft inside a white-walled room.
NASA’s Psyche spacecraft is processed in a clean room ahead of its planned Oct. 5, 2023 liftoff. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Update for Sept. 29: NASA has announced that Psyche will now launch on Oct. 12. This piece has been updated to reflect the new launch date.

We're just two weeks away from the first-ever interplanetary mission for SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket. 

The Falcon Heavy is scheduled to launch NASA's Psyche spacecraft from the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 12.

It will be the eighth mission overall for the powerful SpaceX launcher, which debuted in February 2018, and its first for NASA.

Related: NASA's Psyche asteroid probe on track for October launch after 1-year delay

The launch window extends through Oct. 25, and NASA and SpaceX may need the margin given the looming possibility of a government shutdown on Oct. 1

If the government does shut down, NASA will likely seek a waiver to proceed with the launch, citing it as an essential operation. But there's no guarantee that waiver will be granted.

A delay wouldn't be the first for Psyche; the mission was originally supposed to launch last year, but it was pushed back after problems were discovered with the spacecraft's flight software.

After it gets off the ground, Psyche will head toward its namesake, a bizarre 170-mile-wide (280 kilometers) metallic object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. 

The spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at its destination in 2029, providing great looks at a very intriguing solar system body. Researchers think Psyche might be the exposed core of a protoplanet, whose rocky outer layers were stripped away by one or more impacts.

"I am so looking forward to seeing those first images," Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Sciences Division, said during a news conference earlier this month. "They are going to be spectacular, when we finally get to see what this metal asteroid looks like up close."

The Falcon Heavy is the second-most powerful rocket in operation today, after NASA's Space Launch System (though SpaceX's Starship vehicle will take the crown when it comes online).

The Falcon Heavy has launched seven times to date, most recently on July 26. Though the rocket has not yet lofted a NASA payload, it does have multiple U.S. national security missions under its belt.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.