A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket carrying NASA’s Psyche spacecraft lifted off from Launch Complex 39A in Florida last Friday, with the agency’s DSOC (Deep Space Optical Communications) technical briefing. Learn how Earth and other rocky planets formed
Falcon Heavy’s 27 Merlin engines quickly pushed the craft into the atmosphere. and moving it from the Florida space station. The Falcon Heavy’s first stage consisted of three Falcon 9 boosters joined together: two side boosters and a central booster. The second upper level above the core booster carries the Psyche shuttle. SpaceX landed the side boosters on Landing Zones 1 and 2 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station near the Kennedy Center about eight minutes later.
The launch vehicle reached Max Q, or the moment of maximum mechanical stress on the rocket, followed by one minute of shutdown of the booster motor.
Psyche was the first mission in history to study a metal-rich asteroidIt aims to help scientists learn more about the formation of rocky bodies in the Solar System.
NASA’s Psyche spacecraft will travel 3.5 billion kilometers from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to asteroid Syke at the edge of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. With a blue glow from its thrusters and powered by a pair of large solar panels, the orbiter will use its payload of science instruments to learn more about the asteroid.
Three science instruments and gravity probes will help clarify the origin of the solar system and more. The spacecraft’s magnetometer will search for evidence of an ancient magnetic field on the asteroid Syke. A residual magnetic field would be strong evidence that an asteroid formed from the core of a planetary body.
The orbiter’s gamma-ray and neutron spectrometers help scientists determine the chemical elements that make up the asteroid and better understand how it formed. The spacecraft’s multispectral imager Provides information on mineral composition Psychology, as well as its landscape.
The mission’s science team will use the telemetry system to perform gravity science. By analyzing the radio waves the spacecraft communicates with, scientists How asteroid Psych affects the spacecraft’s orbit can be measured. That information will help determine the asteroid’s spin, mass and gravitational field, and provide more information about the composition and structure of the asteroid’s interior.
The spacecraft will use a high-capacity propulsion system beyond the Moon for the first time. Driven by Hall-effect thrusters, Psyche’s solar electric propulsion system uses energy from large solar panels to generate electric and magnetic fields. These accelerate and eject charged atoms or ions from a propellant called xenon (a neutral gas used in car headlights and plasma televisions), creating thrust. The ionized gas emits a sci-fi-like blue light as it follows the Psyche through space. In the frictionless vacuum of space, the spacecraft accelerates slowly and continuously.
This propulsion system is based on the same technologies used by NASA’s Dawn mission, but Psyche will be the agency’s first mission to use Hall-effect thrusters in deep space.