It was to be one of the great meetings of the space adventure in 2022: the departure of a space probe in the direction of a metallic asteroid evolving between Mars and Jupiter. Eventually, it will be nothing. The American space agency has given up on a launch this year. The mission, titled Psyche, like the name given to the asteroid, will be a few years late.
In a June 24 update, NASA sees two launch possibilities in 2023 and 2024, but given the orbital positions of the Earth and the asteroid – baptized (16) Psyche – the probe would not arrive on area only in 2029 or 2030, depending on the year chosen. ” The exact dates of these potential launch periods have yet to be determined. “warns NASA.
The problem that has plagued NASA is a delay in delivering spacecraft flight software and test equipment. For lack of sufficient time to check their quality, NASA judges that it no longer has enough time to complete everything before the deadline. These tests are required to ensure that the probe is working in flight. It is far from secondary.
A world of metal, different from what we know
Psyche is one of the largest bodies in the asteroid belt and its composition intrigues astronomers a lot. He is described as a ” world of metal by the space agency and the University of Arizona, which proposed the study of this body, because of its atypical characteristics. It is not made of rock or ice, like so many other bodies in space.
« For the very first time, we explore a world made not of rock or ice, but of metal “, welcomes the American faculty on the page dedicated to the project. The page, alas, is not quite up to date yet: it still displays a counter suggesting a take-off in the coming weeks (the shooting window was then spread out from August 1 to October 11).
Access to Psyche would provide an exceptional window on the history of the Solar System and better understand the formation of the planets, in particular their core. A body like Psyche shares characteristics with the heart of the telluric planets. And Psyche is infinitely more accessible than the center of the Earth.
« In the depths of telluric planets, including Earth, scientists deduce the presence of metallic cores, but these are found far below the mantle and rocky crusts. Psyche offers a unique window on these constituent elements of planet formation and allows us to study a type of world hitherto unexplored. sums up the university.
The composition of the asteroid is assumed to be an alloy of iron and nickel, but other particular elements could be unearthed on the surface. The probe will be able to verify this by placing itself in orbit of Psyche at an altitude varying from a few tens to several hundreds of kilometers. The probe will be active for a little less than two years on site.
The Psyché mission was to take off this year with the help of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, which is rarely used. It is a Falcon 9 rocket which benefits from the support of two first stages of Falcon 9 rocket, officiating here as side boosters. The delay announced in June does not call into question the use of this launcher for the mission.