First Time Ever Humans Will Explore A World Made Of Metal - Psyche Launch

October 14, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Psyche SunrisePsyche SunriseThe sun rises over the Psyche Mission at KSC
This was a highly anticipated launch!  The mission has been in the works for 12 years! And after missing a launch window last year, the team had to wait a full year before another window would open. Then again, more delays pushed two more launch dates to finally a successful launch on Friday, October 13, 2023. I would say this was one of the luckiest Friday the 13th I've experienced. People from all over gathered to take a chance on the weather, hoping for the best, and the sky would clear just enough. As the countdown began, we all held our breath... then the sky began its soft red glow in the distance and the crowd erupted in excitement. Not to be outdone by the crowd, the slow rumble to roar of the rocket rolled across the water and overcame us as the glow grew to an eruption of fire and smoke and the Falcon Heavy took flight! 

Psyche Launch VideoA video from my cell phone of the launch.

At launch, Psyche had a mass of approximately 2.6 tonnes. The Falcon Heavy's side boosters returned to landing zones 1 and 2 successfully with the sweet sound of double sonic booms which brought another round of cheers and applause from the crowds that gathered to observe the launch.

The Psyche Asteroid Mission, one like no other, taking human exploration to new boundaries, to a world made of metal - not the rock and ice of the terrestrial scapes we have come to know. Arizona State University leads this mission, partnered with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory sent the payload of the Psyche Spacecraft and its research equipment that includes an imager, magnetometer, and a gamma-ray spectrometer propelling into space toward their target of the Psyche asteroid. The Psyche Spacecraft is scheduled to begin its scientific operations in 2029, where it will orbit the asteroid for approximately 26 months while conducting various experiments. 
This Psyche asteroid itself  is located between Mars and Jupiter, and scientists believe it to be the core remnants of an early planet that is made up primarily of nickel-iron material. For the first time ever, humankind will be able to test and study planet core material if their suspicions prove correct. This information could provide us with the building blocks of early planets and give a glimpse into a whole new kind of world. As it is not possible to penetrate the depths of our own planet to the core nor have we been provided with such an opportunity in the past, this will indeed be an unprecedented event where countless members of the scientific community will be impatiently awaiting any feedback from the success of this mission. 

What a fun launch this was to witness. Wishing the best of success to this mission, to Psyche's 2.2 billion mile journey and hoping for fruitful and exciting discoveries for our scientific community that will foster continued growth in understanding our universe.

Psyche MissionLiftoffFalcon Heavy liftoff with Psyche Spacecraft on the Psyche Mission Psyche MissionLiftoffFalcon Heavy liftoff with Psyche Spacecraft on the Psyche Mission Psyche MissionPsyche MissionFalcon Heavy rocket headed toward space with Psyche Spacecraft aboard on the Psyche Mission
 

These are the Mission Details, straight from NASA:

  • LAUNCH PROVIDER: SpaceX
  • ROCKET TYPE: Falcon Heavy
  • LAUNCH PAD: Launch Complex 39A
  • BOOSTER(S): Re-usable, Landing Zones 1 & 2 • Cape Canaveral Space Force Station

Science Goals

  • Understand a previously unexplored building block of planet formation: iron cores.
  • Look inside terrestrial planets, including Earth, by directly examining the interior of a differentiated body, which otherwise could not be seen.
  • Explore a new type of world. For the first time, examine a world made not of rock and ice, but metal.

Science Objectives

  • Determine whether Psyche is a core, or if it is unmelted material.
  • Determine the relative ages of regions of Psyche's surface.
  • Determine whether small metal bodies incorporate the same light elements as are expected in the Earth's high-pressure core.
  • Determine whether Psyche was formed under conditions more oxidizing or more reducing than Earth's core.
  • Characterize Psyche's topography.

Mission Timeline

  • Launch: October 13, 2023
  • Solar electric cruise: About 6 years
  • Arrival at (16) Psyche: 2029
  • Observation Period: 26 months in orbit, mapping and studying Psyche’s properties

Mission Events

  • 2023 – Launch of Psyche spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center, Florida
  • 2026 – Mars Flyby of Psyche spacecraft
  • 2029 – Psyche spacecraft arrives in asteroid’s orbit
  • 2029-2031 – Psyche spacecraft orbits the Psyche asteroid

Scientific instruments and Investigations

  • Multispectral Imager
  • Gamma Ray and Neutron Spectrometer
  • Magnetometer
  • X-band Gravity Science Investigation

Deep Space Optical Communication (DSOC)

The Psyche spacecraft will carry an experiment that will demonstrate NASA’s farthest-ever test of high-bandwidth optical communications. DSOC will send and receive test data using an invisible near-infrared laser, which can transmit data at 10 to 100 times the bandwidth of conventional radio wave systems used on spacecraft today. As the first demonstration of deep space laser communications, DSOC could pave the way for broadband communications that will help support humanity’s next great leap: When NASA sends astronauts to Mars. The DSOC team is based at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

 

 


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