NASA’s asteroid Psyche mission will go ahead

NASA’s Psyche mission will explore a unique metallic asteroid orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter. The asteroid, likely made largely of nickel-iron metal mixed with rock, could contain metal from the core of a planetesimal (the building block of an early rocky planet) and could offer a unique window into the violent history of collisions and accretion that created terrestrial planets like Earth. Credit: NASA

The mission team continues to complete testing of the spacecraft’s flight software in preparation for the 2023 launch date.

On Friday, October 29,[{” attribute=””>NASA announced that the agency decided its Psyche mission will go forward, targeting a launch period opening on October 10, 2023.

Psyche missed its planned 2022 launch period earlier this year as a result of mission development problems, leading to an internal review of whether the mission would be able to overcome these issues to successfully launch in 2023.

This continuation/termination review was informed by a project-proposed mission replan and a separate independent review, commissioned in June by NASA and the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (

Psyche Spacecraft

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

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

In preparation for the 2023 launch date, the mission team continues to complete testing of the spacecraft’s flight software. The new flight profile is similar to the one originally planned for August 2022, using a

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

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

The Psyche mission is a journey to a unique metal asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and

Deep within rocky, terrestrial planets – including Earth – scientists infer the presence of metallic cores, but these lie unreachably far below the planets’ rocky mantles and crusts. Because we cannot see or measure Earth’s core directly, Psyche offers a unique window into the violent history of collisions and accretion that created terrestrial planets.

Arizona State University leads the Psyche mission. JPL, which is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California, is responsible for the mission’s overall management, system engineering, integration and test, and mission operations. Maxar Technologies in Palo Alto, California, is providing the high-power solar electric propulsion spacecraft chassis. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is managing the launch. Psyche is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.


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