Cold Gas Thrusters Heat Up: NASA’s Psyche Mission Launch Pushed Back

Psyche Spacecraft Asteroid Composite

NASA’s Psyche mission to a distant metal asteroid will carry a revolutionary Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

NASA and SpaceX postpone the Psyche mission launch to October 12 for further thruster parameter verification, with a launch window until October 25.

Launch Rescheduled

NASA and SpaceX have pushed back the Falcon Heavy launch of the Psyche mission from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. They now aim to launch on October 12 at 10:16 a.m. EDT, a week later than the previous target of October 5.

Reasons for Delay

The change allows the NASA team to complete verifications of the parameters used to control the Psyche spacecraft’s nitrogen cold gas thrusters. These thrusters are used to point the vehicle in support of science, power, thermal, and other demands, such as spacecraft orientation and momentum management. The parameters were recently adjusted in response to updated, warmer temperature predictions for these thrusters. Operating the thrusters within temperature limits is essential to ensure the long-term health of the units.

The verification activities involve rerunning simulations and fine-tuning adjustments as required to the flight parameters and procedures.

There are millions of asteroids in our solar system, so why is NASA going to the asteroid Psyche? Scientists think this particular asteroid, which orbits the Sun between Mars and Jupiter, could be part of the metal-rich interior of a planetesimal, a building block of the rocky planets in our solar system. Visiting Psyche and studying it up close could help us understand how planets like Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars came to be. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Preparation and Launch Opportunities

NASA, SpaceX, and Psyche mission managers met on September 28, to conduct a Flight Readiness Review (FRR) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During the FRR, teams provided an update on the mission status, and certified the readiness to initiate final launch preparation activities including a static fire test on September 29.

Psyche has launch opportunities every day between October 12 and October 25.

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