NASA announced on Friday, June 24, 2022, that the Psyche asteroid campaign, the organization’s first work designed to study a metal-rich asteroid, will not make its planned launch in 2022.
Due to the late delivery of spacecraft software and testing equipment, NASA does not have enough time to complete the required tests before its remaining launch time this year, which expires on October 11. The equipment team needs more time to ensure the software will work—efficiently in flight.
NASA selected Psyche in 2017 as part of the agency’s Discovery Program, a low-cost line competing equipment led by one chief investigator. The agency forms an independent evaluation team to review the project’s progress and Information Process.
“NASA considers the cost and accountability of its projects and programs to be of paramount importance,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, co-director of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “We are looking at mission options in the context of the Acquisition Plan, and a decision on the way forward will be made in the coming months.”
An independent evaluation team of government, education, and industry experts will review the options for the next steps, including limited costs. The implications of the Institutional Discovery Program and the planetary science portfolio will also be considered.
Space navigation and flight software will control the spacecraft’s position as it flies in space and is used to point the spacecraft to Earth so that the spacecraft can send data and receive instructions. It also provides tracking information on the solar-powered space shuttle system, which comes into effect 70 days after launch.
As the equipment team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California began testing the system, a problem was found to match the testing software simulations. In May, NASA changed the target launch date from August 1 to September 20 to meet the required workload. Problem with testbeds identified and fixed; however, there is not enough time to complete the full software review to be launched this year.
“Flying to a distant land that is rich in metal, using Mars to get gravitational force on the way to its destination, takes incredible precision. We have to fix it well. Hundreds of people have put a lot of effort into Psyche during this time of violence, and work will continue as sophisticated aircraft software is tested and tested,” said JPL Director Laurie Leshin. “The decision to postpone the launch was not an easy one, but it was a good one.”
The launch of the 2022 missile, which runs from August 1 to October 11, would allow the spacecraft to reach the asteroid Psyche in 2026. There are possible launch times for both 2023 and 2024, but the related orbital position of the Psyche and Earth means. The spacecraft would not reach the asteroid until 2029 and 2030, respectively. The exact dates for these probable periods have not been determined.
“Our amazing team has overcome almost all the amazing challenges of building a spacecraft during COVID,” said Psyche chief investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University (ASU), who is leading the campaign. “We have overcome many hardware and software challenges, and we are finally stopped by this last issue. We need less time and will be licked with this one. The team is ready to move on, and I am very grateful for their good performance.”
The total cost of Psyche’s complete life cycle equipment, including the rocket, is $ 985 million. Of that, $ 717 million has been spent so far. The estimated costs involved to support each complete list of available equipment options are currently calculated.