Preparing Psyche’s Thruster Installation
Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California prepare to integrate four Hall thrusters (beneath red protective covers) into the agency’s Psyche spacecraft in July 2021.
Psyche is set to launch in August 2022 and will travel to its target, a metal-rich asteroid also named Psyche, under the power of solar electric propulsion. This super-efficient mode of propulsion uses solar arrays to capture sunlight that is converted into electricity to power the spacecraft’s thrusters. The thrusters work by turning xenon gas, a neutral gas used in car headlights and plasma TVs, into xenon ions. As the xenon ions are accelerated out of the thruster, they create the thrust that will propel the spacecraft.
On the Psyche spacecraft, Hall thrusters will be used for the first time beyond lunar orbit, demonstrating that they could play a role in supporting future missions to deep space.