Building NASA’s Psyche: Design Done, Now Full Speed Ahead on Hardware

NASA’s Psyche mission to a distant metal asteroid will carry a revolutionary Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package. This artist’s concept shows Psyche spacecraft with a five-panel array. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

The mission to explore a metal-rich asteroid is pivoting from planning the details to building real pieces of the spacecraft puzzle.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Psyche, the NASA mission to explore a metal-rock asteroid of the same name, recently passed a crucial milestone that brings it closer to its August 2022 launch date. Now the mission is moving from planning and designing to high-gear manufacturing of the spacecraft hardware that will fly to its target in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

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GAO: NASA Performance on Major Projects Continues to Deteriorate

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its latest assessment of NASA’s major projects at the end of April. It found that NASA’s performance on its major projects continued to deteriorate on cost and schedule. (Full Report)

Below are key excerpts from the report that provide an overview of where NASA stands on its major projects. Although GAO did not analyze the Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon, the watchdog warned the Trump Administration’s decision to move the landing date up from 2028 to 2024 will put more pressure on the space agency.

“Looking ahead, NASA will continue to face significant cost and schedule risks as it undertakes complex efforts to return to the moon under an aggressive time frame,” the report stated.

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Psyche Mission Facing Delays in Acquiring Instruments, Electronic Parts

NASA’s Psyche mission to a distant metal asteroid will carry a revolutionary Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package. This artist’s concept shows Psyche spacecraft with a five-panel array. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s first mission to explore a metal asteroid has faced delays in obtaining key instruments and advanced electronic components, according to a new assessment from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The $996.4 million Psyche mission will explore asteroid 16 Psyche. The spacecraft is scheduled to be launched in August 2022.

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Psyche: Five Questions with Maxar’s Program Management

NASA’s Psyche mission to a distant metal asteroid will carry a revolutionary Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package. This artist’s concept shows Psyche spacecraft with a five-panel array. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

Psyche Mission Update
by Maxar Technologies

On April 15, 2020, Maxar Technologies completed an important milestone in building Psyche, a spacecraft that will launch in 2022 to explore a metallic asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. The milestone, called the solar electric propulsion chassis critical design review (CDR), marks the end of the spacecraft engineering phase and the start of the manufacturing phase.

We spoke with Peter Lord, Maxar’s Technical Director and Deputy Program Manager for Psyche, to learn about the importance of the CDR milestone and to hear the latest updates on the program.

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New Observations Suggest Psyche’s Composition Different Than Thought

This artist’s concept depicts the spacecraft of NASA’s Psyche mission near the mission’s target, the metal asteroid Psyche. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

TEMPE, Az. (ASU PR) — The Arizona State University-led NASA Psyche mission, which is planned to launch in 2022, will travel to an asteroid named Psyche, orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter. This asteroid is of particular interest in that it is rich in metal and may be the exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet, one of the building blocks of the sun’s planetary system.

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Janus Satellite to Explore Binary Asteroid

NASA rendering of a Janus satellite rendezvousing with a binary asteroid. (Credit: NASA)

Janus: Reconnaissance Missions to Binary Asteroids

Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon Heavy (secondary payload on Psyche mission)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Launch Date: July 2022
NASA Program: Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx)

Description

Janus: Reconnaissance Missions to Binary Asteroids will study the formation and evolutionary implications for small “rubble pile” asteroids and build an accurate model of two binary asteroid bodies. A binary asteroid is a system of two asteroids orbiting their common center of mass.

The principal investigator is Daniel Scheeres at the University of Colorado. Lockheed Martin will provide project management.

SIMPLEx

Using small spacecraft – less than 400 pounds, or 180 kilograms, in mass – SIMPLEx selections will conduct stand-alone planetary science missions. Each will share their ride to space with either another NASA mission or a commercial launch opportunity.

Janus will be managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama as part of the Solar System Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Small Satellites to Study Martian Atmosphere

The twin EscaPADE satellites will fly to Mars and circle the planet in complementary orbits to sample the hot ionized plasma (cross section in yellow and green) and magnetic fields (blue lines) to understand how Mars’ atmosphere escapes into space. (Credit: UC Berkeley/Robert Lillis)

Escape and Plasma Acceleration
and Dynamics Explorers (EscaPADE)

Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon Heavy (secondary payload on Psyche mission)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Launch Date: July 2022
NASA Program: Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx)

Description

This mission’s objective is to characterize (on multiple scales) the acceleration processes driving escape from Mars’ atmosphere, as well as how the atmosphere responds to the constant outflow of the solar wind flowing off the Sun.

The principal investigator for this mission is Robert Lillis at the University of California, Berkeley. UC Berkeley will also provide project management.

SIMPLEx

Using small spacecraft – less than 400 pounds, or 180 kilograms, in mass – SIMPLEx selections will conduct stand-alone planetary science missions. Each will share their ride to space with either another NASA mission or a commercial launch opportunity.

EscaPADE will be managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama as part of the Solar System Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NASA Selects SpaceX Falcon Heavy to Launch Psyche Mission

NASA’s Psyche mission to a distant metal asteroid will carry a revolutionary Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package. This artist’s concept shows Psyche spacecraft with a five-panel array. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the agency’s Psyche mission. The Psyche mission currently is targeted to launch in July 2022 on a Falcon Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The total cost for NASA to launch Psyche and the secondary payloads is approximately $117 million, which includes the launch service and other mission related costs.

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NASA Budget Proposal Laser Focused on the Moon

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Determined to land astronauts on the moon in time for the 2024 presidential election, the Trump Administration has proposed boosting NASA’s budget by 12 percent, an increase that includes $3.37 billion program for a human lander.

The $25.2 billion plan for fiscal year 2021 is $2.69 billion above the current spending level. More than half the amount, $12.95 billion, would be spent on human space operations in Earth orbit and preparing for missions to the moon.

How the proposal will fair in Congress is unclear. To boost Artemis spending, the Administration has proposed a number of cuts that Congress has rejected in previous Trump budgets. Those reductions include:

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Cosmic Detective Work: Why We Care About Space Rocks

This artist’s concept depicts the spacecraft of NASA’s Psyche mission near the mission’s target, the metal asteroid Psyche. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

By Elizabeth Landau
NASA

The entire history of human existence is a tiny blip in our solar system’s 4.5-billion-year history. No one was around to see planets forming and undergoing dramatic changes before settling in their present configuration. In order to understand what came before us — before life on Earth and before Earth itself — scientists need to hunt for clues to that mysterious distant past.

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Maxar’s SSL Expands Scope of Work for NASA Asteroid Exploration Mission Psyche

NASA’s Psyche mission to a distant metal asteroid will carry a revolutionary Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package. This artist’s concept shows Psyche spacecraft with a five-panel array. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

SSL selected to provide critical flight system component for Psyche Mission, which will reveal the mysteries of the only all-metal body known in our solar system

HERNDON, Va. – August 9, 2018 (SSL PR) – SSL, a Maxar Technologies company (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.) (NYSE: MAXR; TSX: MAXR), and a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, announced today that it was selected by Zin Technologies to build and test the Psyche Compute Element.

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NASA’s Psyche Mission Aims to Launch Ahead of Original Schedule

NASA’s Psyche mission to a distant metal asteroid will carry a revolutionary Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package. This artist’s concept shows Psyche spacecraft with a five-panel array. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

The Psyche asteroid project is a rarity among the 17 major NASA projects that were recently assessed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO): it’s actually aiming to launch ahead of schedule.

“NASA selected the project’s 2023 launch proposal, but later directed the project to work to an accelerated launch readiness date of August 2022,” the GAO report stated. “The accelerated launch date will allow Psyche to arrive at the asteroid over 4 years earlier than the original timeline due to a quicker flight.”

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A Look at NASA’s Mission to Asteroid Psyche

Video Caption: Psyche is both the name of an asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter — and the name of a NASA space mission to visit that asteroid, led by Arizona State University. Join the Psyche team to explore why this mission was selected for NASA’s Discovery Program, how we’ll get to the asteroid, what we hope to learn from Psyche, and the importance of scientific discovery.

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Peter Rubin/SSL











“Lighten Up” – Deep Space Communications via Faraway Photons

NASA’s Psyche mission to a distant metal asteroid will carry a revolutionary Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package. This artist’s concept shows Psyche spacecraft with a five-panel array. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A spacecraft destined to explore a unique asteroid will also test new communication hardware that uses lasers instead of radio waves.

The Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package aboard NASA’s Psyche mission utilizes photons — the fundamental particle of visible light — to transmit more data in a given amount of time. The DSOC goal is to increase spacecraft communications performance and efficiency by 10 to 100 times over conventional means, all without increasing the mission burden in mass, volume, power and/or spectrum.

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NASA Glenn Tests Thruster Bound for Metal World

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — As NASA looks to explore deeper into our solar system, one of the key areas of interest is studying worlds that can help researchers better understand our solar system and the universe around us. One of the next destinations in this knowledge-gathering campaign is a rare world located in the asteroid belt called Psyche.

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