Psyche Ramping up to Launch
NASA's Psyche spacecraft is shown in a clean room on June 26, 2023, at the Astrotech Space Operations facility near the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Engineers and technicians from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California have begun final assembly, test, and launch operations on Psyche. The spacecraft is set to launch atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on Oct. 5.
Measuring about 173 miles (279 kilometers) at its widest point, the asteroid Psyche is a metal-rich body that may be part of a core of a planetesimal, the building block of an early planet. Once the spacecraft reaches Psyche, in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, it will spend at least 26 months orbiting the asteroid, gathering images and other data that will tell scientists more about its history and what it is made of.
Arizona State University leads the Psyche mission. A division of Caltech in Pasadena, JPL is responsible for the mission's overall management, system engineering, integration and test, and mission operations. Maxar Technologies in Palo Alto, California, provided the high-power solar electric propulsion spacecraft chassis.
JPL also is providing a technology demonstration instrument called Deep Space Optical Communications that will fly on Psyche in order to test high-data-rate laser communications that could be used by future NASA missions.
Psyche is the 14th mission selected as part of NASA's Discovery Program, managed by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.