The Timeline

The Psyche Mission consists of six phases, labeled A-F.  These phases span the years 2015 to 2028, from initial studies and selection of the mission by NASA for its Discovery Program, through building and testing of instruments and the spacecraft, to launch, cruise, and arrival at the asteroid and finally to orbit and the closeout of the mission.  Scroll below to follow the journey of Psyche through the phases of the mission.

Phase A

Sept 2015 – Dec 2016

Concept Study

  • In September of 2015, the Psyche Mission (as it was proposed in Step 1) was selected by NASA to develop a detailed concept study for consideration for NASA’s Discovery Program. (Step 1 is the initial proposal stage; the team had been working on the idea since 2011 and submitted a 256 page Step 1 proposal that was selected for the Phase A concept study.)
  • A large team worked on the study, led by the Principal Investigator, Lindy Elkins-Tanton, and consisting of an expansive team that included scientists, engineers, project managers, schedulers, financial modelers, graphic designers, and marketing leads from ASU, JPL, Maxar Technologies, as well as more than a dozen other universities and research organizations.
  • The team submitted the ~1,000-page concept study in August of 2016.
  • In November of 2016, the team presented the proposed mission to 30 NASA reviewers during a nine-hour “site visit” which included a tour of Maxar’s high bay, where the Psyche chassis will be built.    
  • The site visit is an intense, highly technical in-person review done by a select group of science, technical, and industry experts. They review every detail of the proposed mission, from concept and design, to execution and science application, as well as how the mission personnel from different institutions work together as a team. 
  • Following the site visit, the Principal Investigator presented to NASA’s Associate Administrator.
  • On January 4 of 2017, the Psyche Mission’s selection for flight was announced by NASA.
This is an image of our psyche team at the Spring 2017 team meeting.

Phase B

Jan 2017 – May 2019

Preliminary Design of All Instruments & Spacecraft

  • Science and engineering teams on the mission designed the spacecraft and the instruments that will be used to analyze the asteroid.
  • March 2019, the team completed project and flight system Preliminary Design Review.
  • May 2019, the team reached Key Decision Point C, which gave the team the official approval to move to the next phase (Phase C).
This line drawing of gold on a black backgroun shows the Psyche asteroid in the center with diagrams of the various parts of the spacecraft floating in orbit around it.

Phase C

May 2019 – Jan 2021

Final Design & Subsystem Fabrication, Assembly, & Test

  • Science and engineering teams begin to build their instruments.
  • The instruments consist of a magnetometer, a multispectral imager, and a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer.
  • The mission will use an X-band radio telecommunications system to measure Psyche’s gravity field to high precision. When combined with topography derived from onboard imagery, this will provide information on the interior structure of Psyche.
  • The mission will also test a sophisticated new laser communication technology that encodes data in photons (rather than radio waves) to communicate between a probe in deep space and Earth. Using light instead of radio allows the spacecraft to communicate more data in a given amount of time.
  • May 2020, the teams undergo Project and Flight System Critical Design Review, this is an integral step in the instrument engineering process.
  • The bus or “body” of the spacecraft is completed by May 2020.
  • In January 2021, the team conducts the Systems Integration Review to ensure that the system is ready to be integrated. The last step in Phase C is Key Decision Point D that gives the team the official approval to move to the next phase.

Learn more about the spacecraft

Phase D

Jan 2021 - Sept 2022

Important mission milestones occur in Phase D, including:

  • Instrument and spacecraft assembly and testing.
  • Shipping the spacecraft to the launch site.
  • Mission launch.
A room filled with machinery and equipment for the mission.
Jan 2021 – July 2022

Instrument & Spacecraft Assembly & Test

  • During this phase, all the spacecraft subsystems are integrated onto the spacecraft bus.
  • The spacecraft undergoes vibration testing.
  • The spacecraft undergoes environmental thermal-vacuum testing.
  • The spacecraft undergoes electromagnetic interference, electromagnetic compatibility testing.
  • In May 2022 the team conducts the Operations Readiness Review to ensure the system, procedures, and all supporting software and personnel are ready and fully operational. Before launch, the team conducts Key Decision Point E that determines readiness to conduct post launch operations.


Learn more about the instruments

Psyche spacecraft testing icons.
May 2022

Spacecraft Shipped to Launch Site

  • The Psyche spacecraft, now fully assembled, includes solar panels, which fold during transport and launch.
  • The spacecraft measures about 81 feet long (24.76 meters) when the solar panels are unfolded. This is about the size of a singles tennis court.  
  • The body of the spacecraft is about 10 feet long (3.1 meters) and almost 8 feet (2.4 meters) wide.  
A group of people are moving a huge piece of equipment into a massive storage space.
Aug 2022

Mission Launch

  • At the launch site the team conducts an entire re-check of the spacecraft before integrating into the launch vehicle.
  • The spacecraft launches in August of 2022.
  • Once in space, the spacecraft travels using solar-electric propulsion.
  • It arrives at the asteroid, located in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, in early January of 2026.
A space shuttle is launched into space. You can see the thick smoke coming from it.

Phase E

Oct 2022 - Oct 2027

Phase E of the mission encompasses:

  • Cruise (the activity that occurs between launch and the encounter with Psyche), including a Mars gravity assist.
  • Arrival at the asteroid.
  • Orbiting the asteroid.
An asteroid is in the middle of 4 oval outlines and an orbiter shape is on the outermost oval.
May 2023

Mars Gravity Assist

  • Phase E begins after the Post Launch Assessment Review is conducted.
  • The spacecraft uses the gravity of Mars to increase speed and to set its trajectory to intersect with Psyche’s orbit around the Sun.
  • It does this by entering and leaving the gravitational field of Mars.
  • This slingshot maneuver saves propellant, time and expense.
Psyche Mission trajectory and orbit plan
Jan 2026

Arrival at Psyche

  • Leading up to arrival at Psyche, the spacecraft spends 100 days in the approach phase.
  • The spacecraft also measures the asteroid’s spin axis and rotation.

Learn more about the asteroid

This artist's conception shows the Psyche asteroid.
Jan 2026 – Oct 2027

Orbiting Psyche

  • The spacecraft orbits the asteroid for 21 months.
  • It performs science operations from four different orbits, each successively closer to the asteroid.
  • In each orbit, the instruments on board send data back to Earth to be analyzed by the mission’s science team.


Learn more about the Orbit

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

Phase F

Nov 2027 – Aug 2028

Mission Closeout

  • In this final phase, the mission team provides all remaining deliverables and safely decommissions the space flight systems.
An image of a tear-away calendar with the month November and the year 2027.