NASA’s Psyche: Picking up Launch Prep for 2023
NASA’s Psyche spacecraft is shown in a clean room on Dec. 8, 2022, at Astrotech Space Operations Facility near the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft was powered on and connected to ground support equipment, enabling engineers and technicians to prepare it for launch in 2023. Teams working at Astrotech and at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California continue to monitor the health of its systems.
After a one-year delay to complete critical testing, the Psyche project is targeting an October 2023 launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) technology demonstration, testing high-data-rate laser communications, is integrated into Psyche and will travel with it when it launches to its target, a metal-rich asteroid, also named Psyche, that lies in the main asteroid belt. The silver-colored cylinder shown in the photo is the sunshade for DSOC, and the gold blanketing is the aperture cover for the DSOC payload.
The spacecraft’s target may be the partial core of a planetesimal, a building block of rocky planets in our solar system. Researchers will study Psyche using a suite of instruments including multispectral cameras, a Gamma Ray and Neutron Spectrometer (GRNS) and a magnetometer. The GRNS and magnetometer sensors are visible in the photo as the tips of the two black protrusions at the far end of the spacecraft. Also visible is the large, disc-shaped high-gain antenna, which will enable the spacecraft to communicate with Earth.