NASA announced that its Psyche mission has reached a critical milestone, bringing it closer to the official launch date of August 2022. NASA says the mission is moving from planning and design to making spacecraft hardware. The goal of the Psyche mission is to explore a metal-rock asteroid of the same name, about 140 miles wide, in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The digital blueprint for NASA’s project has been completed, and the next step is to build engineering models, test and retest them, to confirm that the system can complete its work in deep space.
Now, the NASA team has completed a critical design review to review the design of all project systems, including three scientific instruments and all spacecraft engineering subsystems. These subsystems include everything from communications agencies, thrusters and avionics, and flight computers. NASA says it’s one of the most intense reviews the mission has ever undergone throughout its life cycle.
Psyche’s detection team says that while they haven’t reached the finish line yet, they are speeding up the run. The goal of the Psyche mission is thought to be a unique object in the asteroid belt, consisting mainly of metal iron and nickel, similar to the core of Earth. Researchers believe it may be the core of an early planet that lost its outer layer.
Most asteroids are made up of rocks or ice, which makes them significantly different from Psyche. Researchers believe it could provide valuable insights into the formation of our planet and other planets. The spacecraft has a magnetometer to measure the asteroid’s magnetic field, as well as a multispectral imager to capture images of the surface. Spectrometers will analyze neutrons and gamma rays from the surface to reveal elements inside the asteroid.
Psyche’s next phase of research and development testing is due in February 2021.