The agency’s first mission to explore a metal-rich asteroid, Psyche, was scheduled to launch in 2022, but NASA confirmed Friday that it will not take place. NASA does not have enough time to do the necessary testing prior to the remainder of its launch window this year, which ends on October 11.
This is due to the spacecraft’s flight software and testing equipment’s delayed delivery. To make sure the software will operate properly in flight, the mission crew needs more time. As a part of its Discovery Program, a series of competitive, low-cost missions headed by a single principal scientist, NASA chose Psyche in 2017.
To analyze the project’s and the Discovery Program’s future course of action, the agency is assembling an impartial assessment team. Thomas Zurbuchen, the assistant administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said, “NASA takes the cost and schedule obligations of its missions and programs extremely seriously.
Although #MissionToPsyche does not have a path to launch in 2022, I am incredibly proud of this team. Despite the many obstacles they faced, this team persevered to find solutions to bring this mission this far. https://t.co/tbtF9yktYN
— Thomas Zurbuchen (@Dr_ThomasZ) June 24, 2022
In the context of the Discovery Program, “We are investigating options for the mission, and a decision on the course of action will be taken in the coming months.” The impartial assessment team, which is often composed of authorities from government, academia, and business, will examine potential courses of action, including approximate costs.
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Impacts on the agency’s planetary scientific portfolio and Discovery Program will also be taken into account. The guidance, navigation, and flight software of the spacecraft is used to direct the antenna of the spacecraft toward Earth so that it may transmit data and receive commands.
This orientation of the spacecraft will be controlled as it travels through space. The spacecraft’s solar electric propulsion system, which starts operating 70 days after launch, also receives trajectory information from it.
A compatibility problem was found with the software’s testbed simulations as the mission team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California started to test the system. NASA changed the mission’s scheduled launch date from August 1 to no earlier than September 20 in May to account for the necessary work.
Although the problem with the testbeds has been found and fixed, there is not enough time to finish a thorough examination of the software in time for a launch this year. “It takes tremendous precision to fly to a far-off metal-rich asteroid while using Mars as a gravity assist on the way there.
It must be done correctly. Psyche has received incredible work from hundreds of workers throughout this time, and the effort will continue as the intricate flight software is thoroughly tested and evaluated, according to JPL Director Laurie Leshin. Although it wasn’t an easy choice, delaying the launch was the right one.
The spacecraft would have reached the asteroid Psyche in 2026 if it had been launched during the mission’s 2022 launch window, which was from August 1 to October 11. Although there are potential launch windows in 2023 and 2024, the spacecraft would not reach the asteroid until 2029 or 2030, respectively, due to the relative orbital locations of Psyche and Earth.
These potential launch seasons’ specific dates have not yet been determined. The mission’s principal investigator, Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University (ASU), commented, “Our great team has conquered almost all of the incredible hurdles of developing a spacecraft during COVID.”
“After overcoming a number of hardware and software obstacles, we were ultimately halted by one last issue. We only need a little more time, and we can take care of this one as well. I’m really appreciative of the team’s excellence and they are prepared to move forward.
The rocket is included in the $985 million life-cycle mission cost of Psyche. To yet, $717 million of that has been spent. Calculations are now being made to determine the projected expenses associated with supporting each of the mission alternatives.
NASA’s Janus mission to research twin binary asteroid systems and the Deep Space Optical Communications technology demonstration to test high-data-rate laser communications that is integrated with the Psyche spacecraft were both set to launch on the same SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket as Psyche. Options for both programmes are being evaluated by NASA.
The Psyche mission is run by ASU. The mission’s general management, system engineering, integration and test, and mission operations are handled by JPL, which is run by Caltech in Pasadena, California, for NASA.
The spacecraft chassis for high-power solar electric propulsion is provided by Maxar. The launch is being overseen by NASA’s Launch Services Program, which has its headquarters at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. To learn more about the Psyche mission, go to: Lakecountyfloridanews.com