Launch

The Psyche mission launch occurs in Phase D. NASA has selected SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the Psyche mission. The Psyche mission will launch on a Falcon Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida no earlier than late summer 2022.

Prior to launch, the instruments and spacecraft are assembled and tested.

A group of people are moving a huge piece of equipment into a massive storage space.

Once the Psyche spacecraft is fully assembled with the solar panels, which fold during transport and launch, the spacecraft will be shipped to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. At the launch site, the team will conduct an entire re-check of the spacecraft before integrating it with the launch vehicle.

 

This artist's conception shows the Psyche spacecraft against a starry background orbiting above the heavily cratered surface of the Psyche asteroid.

Watching the Psyche Mission Launch

The launch of the Psyche spacecraft is scheduled for no earlier than late summer 2022. When the launch period is available, it will be posted here. The launch will be broadcast and streamed live via NASA TV. Information about watching the launch in person will be posted here closer to the launch date.

Psyche Quick Facts

  • Mission Name: Psyche
  • Main Job: To determine whether Psyche (the asteroid) is a protoplanetary core, how old it is, whether it formed in similar ways to the Earth’s core, and what its surface is like.
  • Launch Period: No earlier than late summer 2022
  • Launch Location: Launch Complex 39A, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
  • Arrival at Asteroid: January 2026
  • Number of Staging Orbits: 4
  • Primary Mission Duration: 21 months at the Psyche asteroid

WHAT LAUNCH VEHICLE WILL THE PSYCHE MISSION USE?

NASA has selected SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the Psyche mission. The Psyche mission will launch on a Falcon Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

HOW WILL THE PSYCHE SPACECRAFT GET TO PSYCHE?

Once in space, the Psyche spacecraft travels using solar-electric (low-thrust) propulsion. Solar electric propulsion uses electricity from solar arrays to create electromagnetic fields to accelerate and expel charged atoms (ions) of xenon to create a very low thrust with a very efficient use of propellant.[14] This will be the first use of Hall effect thrusters beyond lunar orbit.

Diagram of the spacecraft's orbit around the asteroid.

HOW FAR WILL THE PSYCHE SPACECRAFT TRAVEL?

The spacecraft arrives at the asteroid, located in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, in early January of 2026.

From launch in late summer 2022 to arrival at the first science orbit around the asteroid in January 2026, the spacecraft will travel 1,496,883,202 (~1.5 billion) miles or 2,409,000,000 (~2.4 billion) kilometers! From launch to the end of the primary mission (October 31, 2027) it will travel 2,038,718,881 (~2 billion) miles or 3,281,000,000 (~3.3 billion) kilometers!

Psyche will use an estimated 922 kilograms (7,022.46 moles) of xenon to travel 2.409 billion kilometers to Psyche. That’s 1.76 x 1018 atoms of xenon per kilometer. Or 1.76 x 1012 atoms per millimeter traveled.