Clearing the critical design phase last month, NASA is on the fast track to commencing their new mission called Psyche. The mission will include a trip to a 226 kilometer wide asteroid named "16 Psyche" which have been monitored by NASA for months.
Scientists discovered the asteroid, which is in the solar system's asteroid belt that lies between Mars and Jupiter. The uniqueness of the asteroid was discovered when scientists believed that it could be more than $10,000 quadrillion worth of gold and precious metals.
Research thus far shows that the asteroid is entirely formed out of exposed metallic iron, nickel and gold core of a protoplanet, which makes it one of the most unique asteroids found.
Researchers claim that this very core is not vastly different from our own planet's core, hinting that it could very well be the insides of a dead planet that has either suffered severe collisions or lost its outer layers due to some reason.
For further studies on the unique finding, NASA is working in collaboration with SpaceX to once again launch the Psyche rocket with the help of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket. The mission is planned to take off from Cape Canaveral Launch Pad 39A somewhere in August 2022. The Falcon Heavy is known to be the world's most powerful operational rocket, with the ability to lift into orbit nearly 64 metric tons. According to SpaceX's Website, the Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy. It is also composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft.
Although the mission is almost ready to start, it is not expected to be a fast one, as the rocket is expected to cross Mars in the year 2023. It will move towards the trajectory of the asteroid by January 2026.
"It's one of the most intense reviews a mission goes through in its entire life cycle. And we passed with flying colours. The challenges are not over, and we're not at the finish line, but we're running strong," stated Lindy Elkins-Tanton, principal investigator for the Psyche mission, in a statement.
In the business of getting mission ready, NASA is in the process of making three instruments. These three instruments include a magnetometer to measure the magnetic field of the asteroid, a multispectral imager to capture surface images, and spectrometers that look at neurons and gamma rays coming from the surface to learn more about its creation.
NASA stated that the assembly and testing are expected to commence in February next year as well as the equipment which will be in the cleanroom of JPL by April 2021.