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Orbiting Asteroid Psyche (Illustration)
This illustration shows how NASA’s Psyche spacecraft will explore the asteroid Psyche, beginning with Orbit A when it arrives at the asteroid in early 2026. The initial orbit is designed to be at a high altitude – about 435 miles (700 kilometers) above the asteroid’s surface.
Over the following 20 months, the spacecraft will use its electric propulsion system to dip into lower and lower orbits as it conducts its science investigation. Eventually, the spacecraft will establish a final orbit (Orbit D) about 53 miles (85 kilometers) above the surface.
Set to launch in August 2022, Psyche will investigate a metal-rich asteroid of the same name, which lies in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Scientists believe the asteroid could be part or all of the iron-rich interior of an early planetary building block that was stripped of its outer rocky shell as it repeatedly collided with other large bodies during the early formation of the solar system.
Arizona State University in Tempe leads the Psyche mission. JPL is responsible for the mission’s overall management, system engineering, integration and test, and mission operations. Maxar Technologies in Palo Alto, California, supplied the spacecraft’s high-power solar electric propulsion chassis. The development of the multispectral imager is led by Arizona State University, in collaboration with Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, California.