Thruster issue prompts october 12 liftoff

30.09.2023 posted by Admin

NASA's psyche mission launch delay

NASA has recently announced a delay in the launch of its Psyche mission, pushing the liftoff date from October 5 to October 12. This mission, set to explore a distant asteroid rich in metal, is now temporarily grounded due to an issue with the spacecraft's thrusters.

The rescheduled launch, targeted for October 12 at 10:16 a.m. ET from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A, will see the Psyche spacecraft hitching a ride on SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket.

The reason behind this delay is NASA's need to perform thorough verifications on the parameters governing the Psyche spacecraft's nitrogen cold gas thrusters. These thrusters are crucial for controlling the spacecraft's movement and orientation. NASA adjusted these parameters in response to updated temperature predictions for the thrusters, as their proper operation within temperature limits is vital for their long-term functionality. Following these adjustments, the launch team will conduct simulations and fine-tune the spacecraft's settings before proceeding with the mission. NASA has set a launch window between October 12 and 25 to execute the mission successfully.

Originally planned for launch in 2022, the Psyche mission faced delays due to issues with the spacecraft's flight software and testing equipment. The flight software plays a vital role in controlling the spacecraft's orientation, trajectory, and data transmission to and from Earth.

In October 2022, NASA confirmed that the Psyche mission was back on track after addressing internal staffing and communication concerns that contributed to its earlier delays. However, with the new launch window, the spacecraft will reach the Psyche asteroid later than initially anticipated. It will utilize a Mars gravity assist in 2026 to adjust its trajectory and enter the asteroid's orbit in August 2029, as opposed to the earlier plan of reaching it in early 2026.

Psyche is an asteroid with a diameter of 140 miles (226 kilometers) situated in the region between Mars and Jupiter. Scientists speculate that it may be the exposed core of a shattered planetesimal, one of the foundational elements that combine to form planets. The Psyche spacecraft will closely orbit this target and is equipped with various instruments, including a multispectral imager, a gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer, a magnetometer, and a radio instrument, all aimed at mapping the asteroid's characteristics, according to NASA.
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