NASA’s ambitious asteroid mission, Psyche, has hit a roadblock as the launch has been postponed by a week. The delay is due to the need for an update in the configuration of thrusters on the spacecraft.
Engineers working on the project require additional time to verify the parameters used for the nitrogen cold-gas thrusters. These thrusters will operate at warmer temperatures than initially predicted, and it is crucial to operate them within specific limits to ensure their long-term health.
Unfortunately, the delay comes at a cost as it takes away one precious week from the three-week launch period for Psyche. The spacecraft, scheduled for daily instantaneous launch opportunities from October 12 to October 25, must now wait for its journey to begin.
The setback has also resulted in an increase in the mission’s cost, pushing it from just under $1 billion to $1.2 billion. Additionally, the anticipated arrival of the spacecraft at the asteroid has been delayed from 2026 to 2029.
However, once Psyche reaches the asteroid, it plans to make the most of its time there. The spacecraft will spend two years studying the structure and composition of the celestial body. This mission will be the first of its kind, as Psyche will be the first spacecraft to visit a solar system body primarily composed of metal.
Interestingly, there were no prior mentions of concerns regarding the spacecraft’s cold-gas thrusters, making this delay somewhat unexpected. Nonetheless, NASA remains optimistic about Psyche’s success and progress towards its goal.
While complications arise for Psyche, another pressing matter looms over NASA. The potential federal government shutdown in October could affect the mission’s timelines. However, NASA has classified it as an “excepted” activity, indicating that efforts will be made to avoid interruptions even if the shutdown ensues.
With a temporary funding resolution yet to be passed, the likelihood of a government shutdown is increasingly concerning. NASA, along with other agencies, are closely monitoring the situation to ensure minimal impact on critical projects like Psyche.
As space enthusiasts eagerly await the journey of Psyche, they, along with NASA, are hopeful that the update to the spacecraft’s thrusters will proceed smoothly and that the mission will proceed according to plan.
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