This illustration, updated as of June 2020, depicts NASA’s Psyche spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

NASA announced Friday that the agency has decided that its Psyche mission will continue, heading for a launch period that begins on October 10, 2023.

Earlier this year, Psyche missed its planned launch window in 2022 as a result of problems with the mission’s development, prompting an internal review of whether the mission would be able to overcome those problems to successfully launch in 2023.

This continuation/termination review was informed by a mission replan proposed by the project and separate independent reviewordered in June by NASA and the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which are investigating the cause of the delay.

“I appreciate the hard work of the Independent Review Board and the JPL-led team for the mission’s success,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The lessons learned from Psyche will be applied across our mission portfolio. I am excited about the scientific insights Psyche will provide during its lifetime and its promise to advance our understanding of our planet’s core.”

The independent review board is still finalizing its report, which, along with NASA’s response, will be shared publicly once it’s complete.

The mission team continues to complete testing of the spacecraft’s flight software in preparation for a launch date of 2023. The new flight profile is similar to the one originally planned for August 2022 using a Mars gravity assist in 2026. , to send the spacecraft on its way to the asteroid Psyche. With a launch date of October 2023, the Psyche spacecraft will arrive at the asteroid in August 2029.

“I am extremely proud of the Psyche team,” said JPL Director Laurie Leshin. “During this review, they have demonstrated significant progress that has already been made toward the future launch date.” I am confident the plan is moving forward and I am excited about the unique and important science this mission will return.”

NASA selected Psyche in 2017 to study a previously unexplored metal-rich asteroid of the same name. It is part of the agency’s Discovery program, a series of low-cost, competing missions led by a single principal investigator.

NASA continues to evaluate options for its Janus mission, exploring twin asteroid systems, which was originally planned to launch on the same SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket as Psyche. NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications technology demonstration testing high-data-rate laser communications has been integrated into the Psyche spacecraft and will continue as planned on the new launch date.

NASA’s asteroid mission is on hold due to late software delivery

Courtesy of Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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