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NASA to Launch Psyche Mission in August 2022 for Strange Metallic Asteroids

Yusuf Balogun
Yusuf Balogun
Yusuf is a law graduate and freelance journalist with a keen interest in tech reporting.

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Today, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, has revealed that it is set to launch the Psyche mission in August 2022, designed to explore strange metallic asteroids. Psyche is the name of NASA’s mission to visit the asteroid. The mission is headed by Arizona State University’s Lindy Elkins-Tanton and managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The Psyche mission will put astronomers’ beliefs on how planetary cores originate and what makes them up to the test. It will also examine a landscape unlike any other world visited by space probes so far.

The Psyche mission is set to launch in August 2022, and it will take more than three years to reach its goal. What will it find when it gets there?

After a thousand-year-old high-speed impact, astronomers say we may observe gigantic surface faults caused by frozen metal shrinkage, gleaming cliffs of green crystalline mantle minerals, frozen rivers of sulfur lava, and large pieces of metal dispersed on the surface. There will undoubtedly be numerous surprises.

This space probe will have to travel a considerable distance to reach its objective, which will put a lot of strain on it. 16 Psyche is a small asteroid on the outskirts of the main asteroid belt, far outside Mars’ orbit. In January 2026, the probe will launch into orbit around the asteroid, where it will perform a study for about two years.

The Psyche spacecraft incorporates high-power solar arrays, electric propulsion thrusters, and accompanying power and thermal control components and is based on the “chassis” used for these satellites.

The Psyche spacecraft resembles a regular Maxar communications satellite in many aspects. However, it also transports JPL’s avionics, flight software, and other fail-safe systems needed for autonomous deep-space operations.

From the start, making this notion work has been difficult. First, NASA management is correct to be wary of this cost-cutting tactic, as the “faster, better, and cheaper” mission model that was used in the 1990s resulted in some spectacular failures.

Second, the “Dawn” mission’s use of the earth orbit system resulted in significant cost overruns throughout the development phase. Finally, many people believe (incorrectly) that the deep space environment is unique, hence the Psyche spacecraft must be unlike any other communications satellite orbiting the planet.

To overcome these issues, many NASA experts collaborated with Maxar engineers. They kept expenses down by sticking to the company’s basic product line and making as few changes as possible.

They believe this is possible because the heat condition in geosynchronous orbit is similar to that encountered by the Psyche probe.

The Psyche spacecraft will endure the same relatively high solar flux as a communications satellite shortly after launch. Of course, it will have to contend with the cold of deep space, but Maxar’s satellites must also contend with similar circumstances when flying through the shadows of the earth, which they do once a day at specific times of the year.

The Psyche spacecraft will use solar-powered electric thrusters to accelerate ions to very high speeds, more than six times the speed that chemical rockets can accomplish, in order to reduce the mass of propellant required to reach the asteroid. It will use an ion thruster known as a Hall thruster in particular.

Aside from a collection of scientific instruments for studying asteroids, the Psyche spacecraft will also carry a “technology demonstration” cargo, according to NASA. It has an acronym, as do many NASA missions. Deep Space Optical Communication (DSOC) is an acronym for Deep Space Optical Communication.

DSOC is a laser-based communication system that is 100 times more powerful than current radio technology. DSOC will demonstrate its capabilities by sending data at a rate of 2 megabits per second from outside of Mars’ orbit. Similar technologies may one day allow viewers to view astronauts’ activities on Mars in high-definition video.


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