The vast array of complex components that make up NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, due to take off to an asteroid of the same name in a year, come together at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
The probe is expected to be launched next August en route to the metal-rich asteroid, which lies in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, according to JPL.
“With NASA’s Psyche mission now less than a year from launch, anticipation is mounting,” JPL said in a written statement. “By next spring, the fully assembled spacecraft will be shipped from the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a launch period that will begin on August 1, 2022. “
After years of preparation, Project Psyche Director Henry Stone of JPL said it was gratifying to see the spacecraft take shape.
“We all watched the spaceship come together on the clean room floor. It’s extremely exciting after all the years of hard work designing the system, building and testing its myriad of components, ”said Stone.
“The pressure is now on to complete assembly and testing of the vehicle before it ships to Cape Canaveral in less than a year,” he said. “It’s both exhilarating and stressful for everyone involved, but I have complete confidence in the ability of this team to get the job done on time for our launch. Come on, Psyche!
The probe is expected to spend 21 months orbiting the 140-mile-wide asteroid and collecting data with its state-of-the-art sensor suite, according to JPL.
“The information gathered by the instruments will not only help scientists understand this particular object; this will give valuable insight into the formation of the Earth and other planets, ”the statement said.
The mission is led by Arizona State University, with JPL being responsible for the overall management of the mission.
“It’s amazing to be at this point now, with a big spaceship coming together and a year before launch,” said Psyche lead researcher Lindy Elkins-Tanton of ASU.
“Like everyone in the world, our team has faced many challenges from the COVID pandemic, and we are working hard to reach the finish line,” added Elkins-Tanton. “I am so proud of this amazing group of people.
The Psyche mission will also be used to test a new form of laser communication, known as Deep Space Optical Communications, which was recently developed at JPL.
“The technology demonstration will focus on using lasers to improve communication speeds and prepare for data-intensive transmissions, which could potentially include live video for future missions,” the JPL statement said.
More information on the Psyche mission is available online at jpl.nasa.gov/missions/psyche.