NASA has moved the Psyche launch up and, as a result, the spacecraft’s arrival in the asteroid belt will be four years earlier than originally planned, according to the space agency. The Psyche mission is one of many ‘highly focused robotic space missions’ chosen by the space agency’s Discovery Program to explore elements of space, in this case the asteroid Psyche located between Jupiter and Mars. The evaluation of this asteroid will help researchers better understand our own planet and others.
According to a recent announcement from NASA, the launch of the Psyche spacecraft will now take place in the summer of 2022, a singe year sooner than the originally planned date. This will result in Psyche arriving at its namesake asteroid four years sooner than the original launch would provide, leaving less than ten years before the spacecraft is at its destination. The change in schedule will also save NASA money.
Talking about the decision, NASA’s Director of Planetary Science Division Jim Green said:
We challenged the mission design team to explore if an earlier launch date could provide a more efficient trajectory to the asteroid Psyche, and they came through in a big way. This will enable us to fulfill our science objectives sooner and at a reduced cost.
Upon the mission’s first announcement, NASA was considering launching the Psyche spacecraft in the year 2021, a launch date that ultimately went to the Lucy mission instead. That meant Psyche would have to wait until 2023, but NASA has managed to work it in a year sooner, as stated. Though only a year was shaven off the launch date, NASA says it will only take half the time to get the spacecraft to its destination due to ‘the excellent trajectory,’ marking big savings in cost.