NASA announced, on May 25, that the asteroid exploration spacecraft Psyche will now launch by September 20 at the latest. The probe was originally intended for an August 1 launch on the roof of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In the latest mission update, NASA said its team needed more time to ensure all of its hardware and software systems were functioning properly. The agency said engineers had identified a flaw that prevented confirmation that the software controlling the spacecraft was working as planned. “Teams are working to identify and fix the problem,” NASA said in a statement.
Earlier this month, the spacecraft was sent from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to the Kennedy Space Center where it underwent additional pre-launch preparations.
Learn more about Psyches missions
As part of this mission, NASA sent the Psyche spacecraft to the asteroid of the same name which is located in the asteroid belt and is made entirely of metal. Scientists believe that the terrestrial planets, including Earth, have metallic cores embedded in them. But it lies inaccessible so far from the planet’s rocky mantle and crust that it is inaccessible. Now, the asteroid Psyche is being targeted by NASA because astronomers believe that the space rock was once the core of a planet that was stripped of its outer layer by collisions with other planetary bodies.
“Asteroid Psyche provides a unique window into the building blocks of this planet’s formation and the opportunity to investigate types of worlds that have never been explored before,” the agency said. Interestingly, the asteroid Psyche will be the first metal object visited by humans in space. According to NASA, the mission is currently in “Phase D” of a six-phase, AF, space mission. At this stage, engineers focus on assembling, testing and launching the device and spacecraft.
Currently in development, the spacecraft will spend about 21 months orbiting the asteroid and mapping space rocks to provide insight into how planets with metallic cores, including Earth, formed. Launched in September, Psyche will embark on a four-year journey and will reach its goal by early 2026.