NASA’s Psyche mission to an unexplored metal world comes to a halt

Jun 24, 2022, 5:16 PM | Updated: Jun 25, 2022, 8:52 pm
NASA's first spacecraft designed to study a metallic asteroid won't be launching this year as plann...
NASA's first spacecraft designed to study a metallic asteroid won't be launching this year as planned, according to an announcement made by the agency on June 24. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images via CNN)
(Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images via CNN)

(CNN) — NASA’s first spacecraft designed to study a metallic asteroid won’t be launching this year as planned, according to an announcement made by the agency on Friday.

The Psyche mission’s 2022 launch window, which opened on August 1 and closes on October 11, will come to an end before the spacecraft’s flight software is ready. A delay in delivering the software and its testing equipment has prevented the Psyche team from having enough time for testing prior to launch.

Engineers want to be absolutely sure that the software will function as expected once the spacecraft is in flight.

Used to control the spacecraft’s orientation as it flies through space, guidance and navigation software help point its antenna toward Earth for communications and relaying data. The software also provides the spacecraft’s propulsion system with trajectory information.

During testing at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, engineers discovered a compatibility issue in the software’s test bed simulators. The issue has since been corrected, but there isn’t enough time for a full checkout and launch in 2022.

The space agency will form an independent assessment team to review the mission and determine a path forward, including estimated costs and potential launch opportunities in 2023 and 2024. The Psyche spacecraft is currently housed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“Flying to a distant metal-rich asteroid, using Mars for a gravity assist on the way there, takes incredible precision. We must get it right. Hundreds of people have put remarkable effort into Psyche during this pandemic, and the work will continue as the complex flight software is thoroughly tested and assessed,” said JPL Director Laurie Leshin. “The decision to delay the launch wasn’t easy, but it is the right one.”

Timing for the mission makes things difficult moving forward. A 2022 launch would have delivered the spacecraft to the asteroid, also known as Psyche, by 2026. But launch periods in the coming years mean that the spacecraft would arrive much later due to different orbital positions, such as 2029 or 2030.

“Our amazing team has overcome almost all of the incredible challenges of building a spacecraft during COVID,” said Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Psyche’s principal investigator and foundation and regents professor at Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration.

“We have conquered numerous hardware and software challenges, and we’ve been stopped in the end by this one last problem. We just need a little more time and will get this one licked, too. The team is ready to move forward, and I’m so grateful for their excellence.”

The delay will also halt two projects that were set to ride along with Psyche on the same SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket at launch.

The first is NASA’s Janus mission, which was designed to study twin binary asteroid systems, and the second is the Deep Space Optical Communications technology demonstration. This demo is designed to test high-data-rate laser communications that could change the way ground teams communicate with spacecraft across deep space.

The spacecraft also has a number of innovations, like ion propulsion rather than traditional rocket fuel.

If the decision is made to launch Psyche in the coming years, the spacecraft will embark on a 280 million-mile (450 million-kilometer) journey. The Psyche asteroid is so metal-rich, some scientists believe it’s the exposed core of a planetesimal, or a planet in the making that separated into layers.

Collisions with other celestial objects over time might have stripped away the outer layers, exposing the remaining metallic core. If Psyche truly is a core, studying it would be like peering inside the very heart of a planet like Earth.

The potato-shaped asteroid only appears as a fuzzy blur to ground- and space-based telescopes. The unusual object could also be a piece of primordial material that never melted, according to NASA.

The results from the assessment team will determine if this mission launches in the coming years or becomes grounded.

“I want to stress that NASA remains fully committed to scientific discovery and exploration of small bodies,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division.

“This is exemplified by our existing missions OSIRIS-REx, Lucy and DART. We are anxiously anticipating the review of Psyche tests to better understand what that path forward will look like.”

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories


FILE PHOTO (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)...
Kristen Rogers and Ashley Strickland, CNN

Summer’s last supermoon and meteor shower take the celestial stage tonight

Tonight's sturgeon supermoon could have you dancing in the moonlight -- the type that only happens three to four times per year.
4 days ago
SIBI ARASU Associated Press

Satellite data finds landfills are methane ‘super emitters’

BENGALURU, India (AP) — Landfills are releasing a significant amount of planet-warming methane into the atmosphere from the decomposition of waste, a study suggests. Scientists used satellite data from four major cities worldwide — Delhi and Mumbai in India, Lahore in Pakistan and Buenos Aires in Argentina — and found that city-level emissions in 2018 […]
4 days ago
An EPIC View of the Moon’s Shadow During the June 10, 2021. 2022 Solar Eclipse (NASA)...
Megan Marples, CNN

Earth broke the record for the shortest day since atomic clocks were invented

If you feel like there's less time in the day, you're correct. Scientists recorded the shortest day on Earth since the invention of the atomic clock.
7 days ago
Ultraprocessed food link to cognitive
Sandee LaMotte, CNN

Cognitive decline linked to ultraprocessed food, study finds

Eating ultraprocessed foods for more than 20% of your daily calorie intake every day could set you on the road to cognitive decline, a new study revealed.
14 days ago
NASA's Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image of the area in front of it using its onboard Fro...
Megan Marples, CNN

Mysterious bundle of string on Mars’ surface found by Perseverance rover

NASA's Perseverance rover captured an unusual image of something lying in the red sand of Mars: a bundle of string.
14 days ago
FILE: The manned Shenzhou-12 spacecraft from China's Manned Space Agency onboard the Long March-2F ...
Associated Press

No reported damage in Philippines from Chinese rocket debris

A Philippine official says there has been no reported damage in a western Philippine province where debris from a rocket that launched part of China’s new space station reportedly fell.
14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...

Utah voters 50+ support increased access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
NASA’s Psyche mission to an unexplored metal world comes to a halt