NASA Postpones Launch of Asteroid Mission Psyche by One Week
NASA has announced that the launch of the much-anticipated asteroid mission Psyche has been postponed by one week. Originally scheduled for October 5, the launch will now take place on October 12. The delay comes as engineers require more time to update the configuration of thrusters on the spacecraft.
The engineers recently made a surprising discovery that the thrusters would operate at warmer temperatures than previously predicted. It is crucial for NASA to ensure that the thrusters operate within temperature limits to guarantee the long-term health of the spacecraft. Consequently, extensive verification work is now necessary, which involves running simulations and making adjustments to flight parameters and procedures.
While the thrusters are not the main propulsion system for the spacecraft, they play a critical role immediately after launch. The delay results in a reduction of the launch period for Psyche from three weeks to just two weeks. However, NASA remains committed to conducting a successful mission, and this additional week will allow for the necessary updates to be made to the spacecraft’s thrusters.
This is not the first change to the mission’s trajectory. Last year, the spacecraft’s route was revised due to software testing problems. As a result of the delay, the mission’s cost has also increased from just under $1 billion to $1.2 billion. Additionally, the spacecraft’s arrival at the asteroid has been pushed back from 2026 to 2029.
Once the Psyche spacecraft reaches the asteroid, it will embark on a two-year mission to study its structure and composition. The information gathered during this time is expected to provide invaluable insights into the formation and evolution of our solar system.
During a briefing on September 6, project officials did not mention any concerns regarding the spacecraft’s thrusters. This recent delay has highlighted the complex nature of space exploration and the importance of thorough testing and preparation.
Furthermore, there is a potential government shutdown scheduled for October. Fortunately, the Psyche launch has been designated as an “excepted” activity, ensuring that it will proceed as planned despite any potential disruptions caused by a shutdown.
As we eagerly await the launch of Psyche, it is clear that the projects undertaken by NASA continue to captivate our imagination and expand our knowledge of the universe we inhabit.
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