Missions to Asteroids: 16-Psyche , a metallic World. The 14th choice of the “Discovery Program”.

 “Discovery Program”

The NASA have  a way to provide funds trough the announcement  of opportunities  (AO)  of their two programs .  For The “Discovery Program” every 2 or 3 years ( in 12/2016  was the 13th  and 14th  sselection) ,  with found of 450Millions of USD not including the launch vehicle or 600-700 Millions of USD or more for all costs,  and for Large planetary mission the “New Frontiers Program” when high science returns are expected, with funds of of 700-800 Millions of USD not including the launch vehicle or 1.2 Thousand of millions of USD or more for all cost (last selection at mid-2019 and to be launch in 2025)[uptaded: Total life-cycle mission costs for Psyche, including the rocket, are $985 million, The estimated costs involved to support each of the full range of available mission options are currently being calculated.]. The ESA manage fund scientific mission with a middle class (like Discovery Program), with selection in 2019 and launch in 2029.

In September , 2015 the NASA under the “Discovery Program”, after it saw 27 team of propose mission and later after to select five of them, announced a fund and awarded with 3million of dollars for develop of five potential “conceptual planetary exploration missions , for further designs studies analysis. The final mission selections was on September 2016, and the selected mission will have a development  budged  of 500 Million of USD and will work for an earlier launch date  of 2020.

These finalist missions under the “Discovery Program”  including “Lucy” and “Psyche”,  are :(NEOCam –“Near Earth Object Camera”; the DAVINCI-“Deep Atmosphere  Venus investigation of Noble gases  Chemistry and Imaging”; and  the VERITAS –“Venus Emissivity Radio Science, Insar, Topography and Spectroscopy”)

Mission definition and the Phases for design and development.

A space mission typically has six phases, from A to F.  The evolution on this project is described as follow:

Phase A: Concept work for this mission began all the way back in the year 2016  Like all NASA missions, early work on Psyche started with drawing up digital blueprints.

Notice: In Jan 20, 2017 NASA announced the pair of new space missions called “Lucy” to six Troyan asteroids (including the called Eurybates)  to be launch in august 2021 and “Psyche,” the latter , to be launch in august 2023, of which will investigate a never-before-studied asteroid that may be composed almost entirely of nickel and iron. That asteroid — described as being giant in size as well as heavily metallic — is named 16 Psyche, and is thought to have a composition not unlike that of the Earth’s core. The Develop cap of these project is about 450 Millions of dollars. The project NEOCam –“Near Earth Object Camera” was not awarded, but it obtain a additional year to mature the design.
The mission to be launchen in 2023 involve a trajectory  with a mars and a earth  gravity assit and arriving to mars in 2030. (the earth gravity do neccesary consider the nearstes aproximation to the sun and the needed a thermic protection refoircement)
In 2017 may 23 was anunced a new more efficent trayectory which reduce the cruise time, to be lanched on 2022  involve only a mars gravity assist in 2023 and will  arrive to the asteroid in 2026.

 Phase B: . Preliminary designs rolled through 2017.  The mission team made prototypes and engineering models of the science instruments and many of the spacecraft’s engineering subsystems. These models are manufactured with less expensive materials than those that will fly on the mission; In that way they can be thoroughly tested before actual flight hardware is built and they are tested several times to confirm that the systems would do their job in deep space,  by operating the spacecraft, taking science data and communicating it back to Earth.

The craft was reviewed by Maxar Technologies in a five-day assessment at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This was a preliminary design review, where it was confirmed that the space vehicle design “meets agency requirements for the mission.”

Notice: In May 24, 2017 according  an announcement from NASA it has moved the Psyche launch up and, as a result the launch of the Psyche spacecraft will now take place in the summer of 2022, a single year sooner than the originally planned date. This will result in Psyche arriving at its namesake asteroid four years sooner than the original launch would provide,

Phase C: The critical design review. 2019. Consist of a Final Design (for System and Subsystems ) & the Subsystem Fabrication Assembly,  and Test Phase. That’s when NASA after the planning , and exhaustive examines and approve the designs for all of the project scientist instruments and engineering systems, is  passing  then to high-gear manufacturing of the spacecraft hardware.

Phase D: Assembly and testing of the full spacecraft begins in February 2021.  Every instrument and engineering system should be delivered to JPL’s main clean room.. then will be assembled integrated and tested  (AI&T) by the JPL system team for correct and bug every problem on it.

–The Deep Space Optical Communications  has a deliver  deadline of April 2021 and The main body of the spacecraft, the SEP Chassis , will deliver by  Maxar  in  February 2021, and  then a few months later  will deliver the solar arrays that provide all of the power for the spacecraft systems.

The Psyche spacecraft is scheduled to be shipped to its launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida in the first half (spring) of 2022  and the launch is expected to take place in August of 2022.

Phase E: . Psyche Mission will fly by Mars for a gravity assist in May 2023 on its way to arrival at the asteroid in early as January 2026, for begin the 21 months of collecting and sending information.

Approach: (optical navigation, instrument calibration, hazard assessment , Asteroid spin axis and rotation period determination)

  • Orbit A: Characterization (radius at 806Km, 32.4 Hrs):
  • Orbit B: Topography (radius at 399Km, 11.2 Hrs).
  • Orbit C: Integrated Science (radius at 245Km, 5.3Hrs)
  • Orbit D: Elemental Mapping (radius at 192Km- that is 45 to 128km altitude, for cameras resolution of  5m@105km-, 3.8Hrs )

Phase F: Between second half of 2027 and mid of 2028- is considered the Mission Closeup phase

Project Managers

Lindy Elkins-Tanton, managing director and  co-chair of the Interplanetary Initiative at Arizona State University in Tempe, and as principal investigator for Psyche misión, leads the overall mission.
Henry Stone of JPL. Psyche Project Manager
Steve Scott, of SSL Psyche Program Manager.

Mission Timeline

  • Phase A :2016-2017 Concept Study
    • Jan 20, 2017  announced  a pair of new space missions called “Lucy” and “Psyche”
  • Phase B:2017 -2019 Preliminary Design.
    • May 24, 2017 moved the Psyche launch from 2021  to summer of 2022, arrival in the asteroid belt will be four years earlier than originally planned, leaving less than ten years before the spacecraft is at its destination. The change in schedule will also save NASA money
  • Phase C: Apr 22, 2019 – February 2021 Final Design & the Subsystem Fabrication Assembly,  and Test Phase.
  • Phase D: February 2021- August 2022. Instruments and  Spacecraft systems  Assembling  Integration and Test (AI&T) and Launch
    • March 2021-August 2022- Spacecraft , instruments and solar Array  A&T  in JPL Clean Room,  in Southern California.
    • (~)March-August 2022 Shipped to the launch site and Test (Cape Canaveral Air Force base, Florida)
    • Launch: August 2022 –Launch of Psyche spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center, Florida
  • Phase E: August 2022-January 2026  Solar electric cruise: 3.5 years
    • (~)March 2023 Mars Gravity Assit (*Flyby of Psyche spacecraft)
    • January 2026-Psyche spacecraft arrives in asteroid’s at 16-Psyche orbit
    • 2026-2027 –Observation Period: Psyche spacecraft orbits the Psyche asteroid, 21 months in orbit, mapping and studying Psyche’s properties
  • Phase F:2027-2028- Mission Closeup

Definition of the Probe Mission

From the 13Th  and  14th  selection of the “Discovery Program” the two approved probes are respectivelly:


In addition to the Psyche mission, NASA  support another mission called “Lucy,” which will look into the environment of the Trojan asteroids near Jupiter. This mission will be launch in 2021, but won’t reach its destination until the year 2025, where it will then explore in the way to the first orbit one small asteroid in the main belt named “Donald Jonanson”(4/2025)-name of paleontologist who lead the team who discuver the Lucy Fossil- arriving in the first orbit a total of six troyan asteroids (  in L4 “Greeks” camp : Eurybates(8/2027), Polimele(9/2027), Leucuos(4/2028), Orus(11/2028),  and later in  the second orbit L5 “Trojan” camp: Patrocus/Monoetius(binary system)(3/2033)) ,from 2027 to 2033. (12 years journey and with a average of 6 year per orbit). With a enough fuel, a third orbit depend of NASA approve founding for a extension mission for any encounter in the late the decade of 2030’s. It is designed to use two instruments with heritage  from the “New Horizonts” mission “Pluto”, the LORRI –High resolution Camera- and RALPH –Color Camera and Imaging Spectrometer-, also one derived from the OSIRIS-REX asteroid Mission: a thermal emission spectrometer.


The Arizona State University (ASU) leads the mission. (School of Earth and Space Exploration)

 The mission consist in a big fat collaboration between :

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory JPL in Southern California is responsible for mission’s overall management, , system engineering, integration and test, operations and navigation.

Maxar Technologies (formerly SSL-Space Systems Loral-), in Palo Alto, California, will built and provide the high-power spacecraft’s solar-electric propulsion chassis with a payload that includes an imager, magnetometer, and a gamma-ray spectrometer.

 For the Psyche mission scientists and engineers worked together to plan the investigations  to complete this  journey , robotic in nature , to a unique metal asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. The asteroid Psyche is unique because it appears to be the exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet, one of the building blocks of our solar system.

The mission launch was programmed for October 2023 or one year sooner, but in May 24, 2017, was announced the actual  re-programming launch. in 2022

The asteroid “16 Psyche” in our local major asteroid belt  it’s worth around $10,000 quadrillion USD because of the metal in contains.  However the mission’s actual aim isn’t really  to mine the asteroid for its super valuable metals.

The mission is meant to determine the plausibility that 16 Psyche is the core of a planet-sized object.

The theory is that 16 Psyche unlike most other asteroids that are rocky or icy bodies , the scientists think that   it is largely metallic iron and nickel  (90%) – similar to Earth’s core –and (10%) silicate rocks,  and drive two possibilities:  at first, it is a unique remnant of asteroids formed close to the sun where only small metals bodies could condense out of the early solar nebula and was later flug into the main belt of asteroids, it is, if the silicates are all primitive chondritic material added by lately impacts , or as a second, if  it was once the core of a of a long-gone ‘early’  object planet-sized that was right around the size of Mars of present day,  and now turned  in an asteroid with a  diameter  size of about 226 kilometers after it lost its outer layers by impacts with others asteroids, in this case the silicates are mainly formed by the High-magnesian pyroxene or oviline, likely as remnant of crystallizing magma ocean. If so, assuming their speculation is correct ,  investigating the asteroid could lend insight into things like the core and how eventual outer layers form on planets early in their life. Since we can’t examine Earth’s core up-close, exploring the asteroid Psyche could give valuable insight into how our own planet and others formed.

In deep within rocky, terrestrial planets scientists infer the presence of metallic cores, but these lie unreachable below planets’ rocky mantles and crusts. Because scientists 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.

Science Goals

  • Understand a previously unexplored building block of planet formation: iron cores.
  • Look inside terrestrial planets, including Earth, by directly examining the interior of a differentiated body, which otherwise could not be seen.
  • Explore a new type of world. For the first time, examine a world made not of rock and ice, but metal.

Science Objectives

  • Determine whether Psyche is a core (of a early planet), or if it is unmelted material.
  • Determine the relative ages of regions of Psyche’s surface.
  • Determine whether small metal bodies incorporate the same light elements as are expected in the Earth’s high-pressure core.
  • Determine whether Psyche was formed under conditions more oxidizing or more reducing than Earth’s core.
  • Characterize Psyche’s topography.

Asteroid’s Característcs. Quick Facts

Discovered: March 17, 1852 by Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis

Name Origin: Psyche, the Greek goddess of the soul who was born mortal and married Eros (Roman Cupid), the god of Love.

Constitution:  Unlike most other asteroids that are rocky or icy bodies , It is  mostly (90%) of metallic iron and nickel similar to Earth’s core and (10%) silicate rocks  . Scientists wonder whether if  Psyche could be an agglomeration small pieces of metallic rocks or if it is a  exposed core of an early planet that lost its rocky outer layers due to a number of violent collisions billions of years ago.

Type: scientists think it is a M-Type Asteroid (metallic)

Dimensions: Observations  suggests Psyche is shaped somewhat like a potato.  Observations indicate that its dimensions are 173 miles by 144 miles, by 117 miles (that’s 279, 232, and 189 kilometers, respectively). The Diameter  in average is  About 140 miles (226 kilometers), about one-sixteenth the diameter of Earth’s Moon or about the distance between Los Angeles and San Diego.

Orbital Period: About five Earth years to complete one orbit of the Sun

Rotation Period (Length of Day): a bit over four hours to rotate once on its axis (a Psyche “day”):  4.196 hours

Mass: Less than 1% of Earth’s Moon

Location  : Psyche orbits the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter at a distance ranging from 235 million to 309 million miles (378 million to 497 million kilometers) from the Sun. about three times farther away from the Sun than is the Earth. That’s 2.5 to 3.3 Astronomical Units (AU), with 1 AU being the distance between Earth and the Sun.

One of the most intriguing targets in the main asteroid belt, 16 Psyche is a giant metal asteroid,. asteroid 16 Psyche is comprised

Asteroid’s Observations: Astronomers on Earth have studied 16 Psyche in visible and infrared wavelengths, as well as radar.

Characteristics of the probe: NASA’s Psyche spacecraft

The Psyche spacecraft is designed as an Space Probe and asteroid orbiter., containing mainly three science instruments

The project systems include :

Scientific Instruments and Investigations: The spacecraft Psyche will use:

  • Magnetometer: a magnetometer to detect a potential magnetic field; and measure it. If the asteroid has one, it’s a strong indicator that it was once the nucleus of a primitive planet.
  • Multispectral Imager: A multispectral imager will capture images from the surface, as well as collect information about the composition and topography of the asteroid. These cameras are similar to the used on the Mars 2020 rover.
  • Gamma Ray and Neutron Spectrometer: Spectrometers will analyze neutrons and gamma rays from the surface to reveal the elements that make up the asteroid. Derivate from an instrument on the MESSENGER mercury orbiter [Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland]
  • X-band Gravity Science Investigation, A Radio Instrument for Gravity measurements.
  • all of the spacecraft engineering subsystems:

-Telecommunications,  including  a  laser technology demonstration called Deep Space Optical Communications(DSOC):, led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory –The Psyche mission will test a sophisticated new laser communication technology that encodes data in photons (rather than radio waves) to communicate between a probe in deep space and Earth. Using light instead of radio allows the spacecraft to communicate more data in a given amount of time.

-Structure: The Spacecraft  main Body Called Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) Chassis, is already being built at Maxar Technologies in Palo Alto, California.]

-Propulsion,: with an electric Hall thruster with the xenon  gas as propellant.

-Power : the solar arrays provides by  Maxar Technologies, was redesigned the solar array system from a four-panel array in a straight row on either side of the spacecraft to a more powerful five-panel x-shaped design, commonly used for missions requiring more capability, where increasing the size of the solar arrays, the spacecraft will have the power it needs to support the higher velocity requirements of the updated mission.

– avionics and the flight computer. :JPL provides the avionics subsystem, which includes Psyche’s flight computer – the brain of the spacecraft. With equipment spread out on racks in a clean room, engineers test each piece before integrating it with the next. Once everything is connected, they test the full system with the software, operating the electronics exactly as they will be used in flight.
The spacecraft’s guidance navigation and flight software will control the orientation of the spacecraft as it flies through space and is used to point the spacecraft’s antenna toward Earth so that the spacecraft can send data and receive commands. It also provides trajectory information to the spacecraft’s solar electric propulsion system, which begins operations 70 days after launch.

An electric Hall thruster, identical to those that will be used to propel NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, undergoes testing at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The blue glow is produced by the xenon propellant, a neutral gas used in car headlights and plasma TVs.

-Launch : is managed by the NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.


  • Phase D:
    March 2021-August 2022- Spacecraft , instruments and solar Array  A&T  in JPL Clean Room,  in Southern California.

    -Arrived on April 29, the Psyche spacecraft has moved into the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where technicians removed it from its protective shipping container, rotated it to vertical, and have begun the final steps to prepare the spacecraft for launch. In the coming months, crews will perform a range of work including re-installing solar arrays, re-integrating a radio, testing the telecommunications system, loading propellants, and encapsulating the spacecraft inside payload fairings before it leaves the facility and moves to the launch pad.
    -On may mission team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California began testing the system, a compatibility issue was discovered with the software’s testbed simulators. The issue with the testbeds has been identified and corrected; however, there is not enough time to complete a full checkout of the software for a launch this year. This work decided and introduced a launch delay.
  • Launch:
    launch time was decided to be targeting an 2022 August 1 launch atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy.
    On 2022 may the Launch time was delayed for no earlier than 2022 Sept. 20.
    On July 24 NASA does not have sufficient time to complete the needed spacecraft’s flight software and testing equipment and it will be not launched on 2022. The Launch time was delayed for a later new launch windows.
    Have also some launch windows availables.
    -2022 Aug01-Oct11, arriving on 2026 [cancelled]
    -2023 (launch time TBD) arriving on 2029
    -2024 (launch time TBD) arriving on 2030

see also:

*In spanish: (Misiones a los asteroides: 16-Psyche, un mundo metálico. La 14a elección del Programa «Discovery»)
* Tecnología de comunicación láser: Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC)
*Espacio: El Tamaño del Sistema Solar.

Sources : Differents from NASA.

Deja una respuesta

Introduce tus datos o haz clic en un icono para iniciar sesión:

Logo de WordPress.com

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de WordPress.com. Salir /  Cambiar )

Imagen de Twitter

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Twitter. Salir /  Cambiar )

Foto de Facebook

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Facebook. Salir /  Cambiar )

Conectando a %s

A %d blogueros les gusta esto: