Psyche’s mission to a metal world
September 22, 2023 - October 5, 2023 - The Psyche spacecraft’s voyage to its namesake asteroid is a unique chance to explore the exposed metal-rich core of an early planet – primordial building blocks that combined under the force of gravity to form our solar system some 4.5 billion years ago.
Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis discovered the asteroid Psyche in 1852. De Gasparis named the asteroid after the Greek goddess of the soul.
The Psyche mission will launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 14:38GMT (10:38EDT) on October 5, 2023. It’s due to arrive at the asteroid in 2029.
Arizona State University leads the Psyche mission, carrying three primary instruments: a multispectral imager, a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer and a magnetometer.
Scientists conjecture that the asteroid is a planetesimal. This body could come together with many others under gravitation to form a planetoid and, eventually, a planet.
The mission will measure Psyche’s gravity field to high precision. When combined with data from spectrometer imagery, this will provide information on the interior elemental composition of Psyche.
The Psyche spacecraft will conduct an experiment demonstrating NASA’s farthest-ever test of high-bandwidth optical communications. Deep Space Optical Communication (DSOC) will send and receive test data using an invisible near-infrared laser, transmitting data at 10 to 100 times the bandwidth of conventional radio wave systems used on spacecraft today.
DSOC features a cutting-edge photon-counting camera to receive a ground-transmitted laser. The camera is attached to a 22-centimeter (8.6-inch) aperture telescope that protrudes from the side of the spacecraft.