Asteroid 16 Psyche: A quick primer as NASA enters Phase C

Information on the NASA mission to 16 Psyche just became a whole lot more relevant, as we're less than a month away from a key bit of official review approval. In other words – we're still in the planning phase, but we're right at that point of no return, so to speak. The mission is aiming for an asteroid in our local major asteroid belt, an asteroid by the name 16 Psyche – and it's worth around $10,000 quadrillion USD because of the metal in contains.

The name of the asteroid is "16 Psyche" and the mission's spacecraft is The Psyche. The craft was reviewed by Maxar Technologies in a five-day assessment at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This was a preliminary design review, where it was confirmed that the space vehicle design "meets agency requirements for the mission."

The mission will be a big fat collaboration between NASA's JPL, Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration, and Maxar Technologies. They'll be analyzing the structure of the asteroid, and all its very, very valuable metal.

The mission's actual aim isn't REALLY to mine the asteroid for its super valuable metals. The mission is meant to determine the plausibility that 16 Psyche is the core of a planet-sized object. The theory is that 16 Psyche was once the core of a planet that was right around the size of Mars.

Concept work for this mission began all the way back in the year 2016. Preliminary designs rolled through 2017 and into 2019. Next is the Final Design and Subsystem Fabrication, Assembly, and Test Phase. Very early in 2021 it's expected that Instrument and Spacecraft Assembly and Test will commence.

The Psyche spacecraft is scheduled to be shipped to its launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida in the first half of 2022. Mission launch is expected to take place in August of 2022.

The mission is currently in its final design and fabrication phases, and we'll know more some time in the month of May, 2019. If all goes as planned, we'll see the arrival of the Psyche spacecraft in January of 2026!