NASA’s Psyche Spacecraft Heads to Cape Canaveral
Scientists have been speculating about what happened before our solar system came into existence. A team of scientists has proposed an idea about how asteroids may have formed in space. This idea is now being tested by a new spacecraft.
Elkins-Tanton is leading the Psyche mission. She is also an astronomer who studies asteroids. Her name comes from the asteroid Psyche. And she is leading NASA’s new Psyche probe. The probe will visit an asteroid called Psyche. It will be sent to the asteroid Psyche to study what it’s composed of and figure out how the solar system’s rock planets may have assembled.
Building operations for the craft have begun for over a year in JPL’s Spacecraft assembly facility. The craft is tested inside the clean room to make sure it can survive the rigors of space travel. The room is designed so no dust or fingerprints disturb sensitive instruments. Contaminants from Earth won’t be carried into space.
The probe is boxy, about the size of a vehicle, topped by a big dish antenna, which will be sent and received signals from home. When Wired visited the clean room in early April, those tests were underway. A handful of posts and a sign that said “psyche: journey to a metal world” kept visitors at a distance. There was a technician working on a tube-shaped receiver on the bottom. Hole could be seen along the side, where two arrays each comprised of four solar panels will be attached. Most of the probe will be flown inside an environmentally controlled container on an airship to Cape Canaveral. But these arrays will be shipped separately and then reattached close to launch.
Psyche is a large metallic asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. It is 140 miles wide and very dense. It is also a unique target because it is the first metal asteroid discovered.
Psyche could be a core of a planetesimal. It could resemble the metallic innards found in rocky planets. It could be the core of a baby world. It could also be a world without any metal.
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A new kind of mission is launched to explore an asteroid. The spacecraft will take pictures of the asteroid and send them back to Earth. The pictures will be available to the public after 30 minutes.
Scientists will use this space craft to measure the density of the asteroid. This will help them figure out if the asteroid is mostly metal or mostly rock. Also, they will use the instruments to detect any radiation coming from the asteroid. These instruments will tell us what kind of atmosphere the asteroid has.
For the body of the Psyhe spacecraft, on which all instruments are mounted, NASA partners with Maxar Technologies, a company based in Westminster, Colorado. This marks the company’s first time building a deep space mission and reduces costs by adapting an off the shelf communication satellite chassis. The spacecraft is made up of two large, cross shaped solar arrays, which when unfurled in orbit will make the spacecraft extend out the length of a tennis courts. When unfurled in space the spacecraft collects 20 kilowatts of power from the sun near earth but drops down to about 2 kilowatts when it gets closer to the planet.
DSOC is a technology demonstration of something that could be used for future missions to Mars.
Psyche is the latest in the series of close-up comets and asteroids investigators who are tasked with expanding our knowledge about the materials that formed the solar system. The ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft flew past the metallic asteroid Lutitia before its lander successfully landed on a comet in 2014. But Psyche will be the subject of more focused study. The NASA’s Dawn spacecraft traveled past the giant asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres last year. In 2015, Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft visited the carbon-rich near-Earth asteroids Ryugy and Bennu. And last year, NASA’s Lucy spacecraft flew by the Trojan asteroids, trapped in the same orbit as Jupiter.
The military is building its own metaverse using your phone. Your phone is vulnerable to malware attack even when it’s off. The car dealership is shrinking but for now, NASA’s mission is to get Psyche to Florida and prepare it for launch. Once it arrives at Cape Canaveral, it will take three months to set up ground support equipment, run tests to make sure everything was shipped correctly, and finalize the hardware. They will also test telecommunication systems for sending commands and receiving information via the deep space network. This is the point where all the nerves are being felt.
Elkins-Tanton feels she has tested everything she can in a clean room. She is not worried about the launch because she is confident about the instruments. She is more concerned about unexpected problems. Her instruments are complicated.