NASA recently announced the postponement of its asteroid mission Psyche by a week in order to update the configuration of thrusters on the spacecraft. Originally scheduled for launch on October 5, the mission has now been rescheduled for October 12. This delay will give engineers more time to verify the parameters for the nitrogen cold-gas thrusters that orient the spacecraft.
The thrusters will need to operate at warmer temperatures than previously predicted, necessitating changes to their parameters. It is crucial to operate the thrusters within the specified temperature limits for the long-term health of the units. To ensure everything is in order, engineers will run simulations and make adjustments to flight parameters and procedures.
Unfortunately, this delay reduces the originally planned three-week launch period for Psyche by one week. Additionally, the mission’s cost has increased from just under $1 billion to $1.2 billion due to the postponement. Furthermore, the spacecraft’s arrival at the asteroid has been pushed back from 2026 to 2029.
Once launched, the spacecraft will spend two years in progressively lower orbits to study the structure and composition of the asteroids. This mission will be the first of its kind to visit a solar system body primarily made of metal, making it a significant scientific endeavor.
Interestingly, despite the potential federal government shutdown in October, the launch of Psyche is currently classified as an “excepted” activity, meaning it will proceed regardless of any funding issues. However, if a government shutdown were to occur, the mission’s funding could still be threatened.
Despite these setbacks, NASA remains committed to carrying out its mission and expanding our knowledge of distant asteroids. The updated configuration of thrusters will ultimately contribute to the success of the Psyche mission and its groundbreaking scientific discoveries.
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