[meteorite-list] NASA Moves Up Launch of Psyche Mission to a Metal Asteroid

Ron Baalke baalke at zagami.jpl.nasa.gov
Fri Jun 30 18:56:27 EDT 2017


NASA Moves Up Launch of Psyche Mission to a Metal Asteroid
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
May 24, 2017

Psyche, NASA's Discovery Mission to a unique metal asteroid, has been 
moved up one year with launch in the summer of 2022, and with a planned 
arrival at the main belt asteroid in 2026 -- four years earlier than the 
original timeline.

"We challenged the mission design team to explore if an earlier launch 
date could provide a more efficient trajectory to the asteroid Psyche, 
and they came through in a big way," said Jim Green, director of the Planetary 
Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This will enable 
us to fulfill our science objectives sooner and at a reduced cost."

The Discovery program announcement of opportunity had directed teams to 
propose missions for launch in either 2021 or 2023. The Lucy mission was 
selected for the first launch opportunity in 2021, and Psyche was to follow 
in 2023. Shortly after selection in January, NASA gave the direction to 
the Psyche team to research earlier opportunities.

"The biggest advantage is the excellent trajectory, which gets us there 
about twice as fast and is more cost effective," said Principal Investigator 
Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Tempe. "We are all 
extremely excited that NASA was able to accommodate this earlier launch 
date. The world will see this amazing metal world so much sooner."

The revised trajectory is more efficient, as it eliminates the need for 
an Earth gravity assist, which ultimately shortens the cruise time. In 
addition, the new trajectory stays farther from the sun, reducing the 
amount of heat protection needed for the spacecraft. The trajectory will 
still include a Mars gravity assist in 2023.

"The change in plans is a great boost for the team and the mission," said 
Psyche Project Manager Henry Stone at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 
Pasadena, California. "Our mission design team did a fantastic job coming 
up with this ideal launch opportunity."

The Psyche spacecraft is being built by Space Systems Loral (SSL), Palo 
Alto, California. In order to support the new mission trajectory, SSL 
redesigned the solar array system from a four-panel array in a straight 
row on either side of the spacecraft to a more powerful five-panel x-shaped 
design, commonly used for missions requiring more capability. Much like 
a sports car, by combining a relatively small spacecraft body with a very 
high-power solar array design, the Psyche spacecraft will speed to its 
destination at a faster pace than is typical for a larger spacecraft.

"By increasing the size of the solar arrays, the spacecraft will have 
the power it needs to support the higher velocity requirements of the 
updated mission," said SSL Psyche Program Manager Steve Scott.

The Psyche Mission

Psyche, an asteroid orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter, is made 
almost entirely of nickel-iron metal. As such, it offers a unique look 
into the violent collisions that created Earth and the terrestrial planets.

The Psyche Mission was selected for flight earlier this year under NASA's 
Discovery Program, a series of lower-cost, highly focused robotic space 
missions that are exploring the solar system.

The scientific goals of the Psyche mission are to understand the building 
blocks of planet formation and explore firsthand a wholly new and unexplored 
type of world. The mission team seeks to determine whether Psyche is the 
core of an early planet, how old it is, whether it formed in similar ways 
to Earth's core, and what its surface is like. The spacecraft's instrument 
payload will include magnetometers, multispectral imagers, and a gamma 
ray and neutron spectrometer.

For more information about NASA's Psyche mission go to:


News Media Contact
D.C. Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
agle at jpl.nasa.gov

Karin Valentine
Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration, Tempe
karin.valentine at asu.edu

Laurie Cantillo / Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1077 / 202-358-1726
laura.l.cantillo at nasa.gov / dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov


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