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Raumfahrt - Mission zur Metallwelt von Asteroid Psyche -Update-2

19.03.2019

Psyche: Metal world mission targets 'iron volcanoes'

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Artwork: The Psyche mission will launch towards its target in 2022

Up until now, the worlds we've visited with robotic spacecraft have been composed largely of rock, ice and gas.

But a Nasa mission due to launch in 2022 will visit an object thought to be made largely of metal.

16 Psyche is part of the asteroid belt - the sprawling mass of planetary leftovers that orbits the Sun between Mars and Jupiter.

About the size of the US state of Massachusetts, Psyche is the largest metallic asteroid known to science.

But how did this 200km-wide metal world come to be?

As planetary building blocks joined together to form bigger and bigger objects in the early Solar System, some became so large and hot that they melted. This process, called differentiation, allowed heavier constituents like iron to sink to the interior.

This resulted in some objects, like Earth, forming a rocky crust and mantle around an iron-nickel core. The core is the source of our planet's magnetic field, which protects the atmosphere from being stripped away by charged particles from space.

A widely held idea is that 16 Psyche is the exposed core of an extinct world, perhaps as large as Mars. This proto-planet must have been pounded by other objects, removing the rocky outer layers and leaving just the iron-nickel innards prone to the vacuum of space.

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Prof Elkins-Tanton says the first task for the mission is to test whether Psyche is indeed a planetary core

Lindy Elkins-Tanton is principal investigator for Nasa's mission to Psyche. She said the first task for the mission after arriving in 2026 was to test the idea 16 Psyche was indeed a planetary core.

"It might be solid metal, or it might be a pile of rubble that's mostly metal," Prof Elkins-Tanton told BBC News.

"So there are a bunch of different hypotheses over what it might be and how it might have formed."

After that, "we will go on to understand what its composition is", she explained. "Would it be compositionally similar to what we think the Earth's core is, or very different from that?"

The mission will seek to understand the asteroid's surface features, or topography. It's not known whether metallic objects like 16 Psyche are covered in a superficial layer of regolith - the dust, soil or bashed-up rock that's found at the surface of the Earth, the Moon, Mars and some asteroids. In addition, says Prof Elkins-Tanton, "we don't know what impacts into metal look like - they could look very different from impacts into rock or ice".

Scientists want to understand whether the metal asteroid produced a magnetic field as it cooled. If the asteroid froze from the inside out, similar to the cores of Earth and Mercury, there will be no record of one. But if Psyche froze from the outside in, as scientists hope, its crust may retain a magnetic memory, allowing the spacecraft to measure and map the asteroid's remnant magnetic field.

Outside-in cooling would also open the door to a process never before seen before on a celestial body: sulphur-iron volcanism.

"One of the things that happens when metal freezes is that it loses about 7% of its volume. So we have a crust that's solid and the inside is continuing to solidify, but it's losing its volume as it solidifies," said Prof Elkins-Tanton, from Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe. "The crust has to crack and settle to accommodate the loss of volume during freezing."

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A 3D-printed model of Psyche. This is one imagining of how the asteroid looks, but we have no idea what its surface is like

Studies of iron meteorites have shown that a sulphur-rich fluid sometimes forms inside the parent body. "We think that could get squeezed out through the cracks and form a kind of sulphur-iron volcanism on the cooling Psyche," said the mission's principal investigator.

She said the team was "super-excited about this", but explained that it was "completely hypothetical".

"Our very best and favourite model for Psyche is that it froze from the outside in, recording its [magnetic] field and that it would be covered in the now billions-of-years-old remnants of sulphur volcanoes," she explained.

The mission will be discussed this week at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), here in The Woodlands, outside Houston.

The Psyche spacecraft will also test several important technological innovations. The engine uses inert gases - energised by electric power from the solar arrays - to provide gentle, non-stop thrust.

This solar-electric propulsion (SEP) system saves on fuel mass compared with conventional chemical propulsion, allowing the spacecraft to enter orbit around 16 Psyche and freeing up space for science instruments.

During flight, controllers will also test a communications system that uses laser light, rather than conventional radio waves.

The mission was formally chosen by Nasa in March 2018, along with a separate asteroid mission called Lucy. The Lucy mission will launch in 2021 to explore the Trojans, a group of asteroids that share Jupiter's orbit around the Sun.

Quelle: BBC

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Update: 9.04.2019

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Iron volcanoes may have erupted on metal asteroids

NASA's upcoming mission to the asteroid Psyche could look for signs of past eruptions, and evidence of 'ferrovolcanism' may also turn up in iron meteorites

Metallic asteroids are thought to have started out as blobs of molten iron floating in space. As if that's not strange enough, scientists now think that as the metal cooled and solidified, volcanoes spewing liquid iron could have erupted through a solid iron crust onto the surface of the asteroid.

This scenario emerged from an analysis by planetary scientists at UC Santa Cruz whose investigation was prompted in part by NASA's plans to launch a probe to Psyche, the largest metallic asteroid in the solar system. Francis Nimmo, professor of Earth and planetary sciences, said he was interested in the composition of metallic asteroids indicated by analyses of iron meteorites, so he had graduate student Jacob Abrahams work on some simple models of how the asteroids cooled and solidified.

"One day he turned to me and said, 'I think these things are going to erupt,'" Nimmo said. "I'd never thought about it before, but it makes sense because you have a buoyant liquid beneath a dense crust, so the liquid wants to come up to the top."

The researchers described their findings in a paper that has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters and is available online.

Metallic asteroids originated early in the history of the solar system when planets were beginning to form. A protoplanet or "planetesimal" involved in a catastrophic collision could be stripped of its rocky outer layers, exposing a molten, iron-rich core. In the cold of space, this blob of liquid metal would quickly begin to cool and solidify.

"In some cases it would crystallize from the center out and wouldn't have volcanism, but some would crystallize from the top down, so you'd get a solid sheet of metal on the surface with liquid metal underneath," Nimmo said.

As for what the iron volcanoes would look like, Abrahams said it depends on the composition of the melt. "If it's mostly pure iron, then you would have eruptions of low-viscosity surface flows spreading out in thin sheets, so nothing like the thick, viscous lava flows you see on Hawaii," he said. "At the other extreme, if there are light elements mixed in and gases that expand rapidly, you could have explosive volcanism that might leave pits in the surface."

NASA's Psyche mission is scheduled to launch in 2022 and reach the asteroid in 2026. Signs of past volcanism that researchers could look for include variations in the color or composition of material on the surface, and possibly features that look like volcanic vents. Large volcanic cones are probably unlikely, Abrahams said.

Unfortunately, because metallic asteroids would have solidified fairly quickly after their formation, there has been plenty of time (billions of years) for any surface features of volcanism to be degraded. "It's not clear what they might look like now," Abrahams said.

The best opportunity to find evidence of ferrovolcanism on metallic asteroids might actually come from studying iron meteorites already in collections on Earth, the researchers said.

"There are lots of these metallic meteorites, and now that we know what we're looking for, we might find evidence of volcanism in them," Nimmo said. "If material got erupted onto the surface, it would cool very fast, which would be reflected in the composition of the meteorite. And it might have holes in it left by escaping gas."

When they presented their findings at a recent Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Abrahams and Nimmo discovered that another research team had independently arrived at similar conclusions about the possibility of ferrovolcanism.

"It's not a shocking idea, but we'd just never thought about iron volcanism before, so it's something new and interesting to investigate," Abrahams said.

This research was supported in part by NASA.

Quelle: UC SANTA CRUZ

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Update: 12.06.2019

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NASA's Psyche Mission Has a Metal World in Its Sights

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Designed to explore a metal asteroid that could be the heart of a planet, the Psyche mission is readying for a 2022 launch. After extensive review, NASA Headquarters in Washington has approved the mission to begin the final design and fabrication phase, otherwise known as Phase C. This is when the Psyche team finalizes the system design, develops detailed plans and procedures for the spacecraft and science mission, and completes both assembly and testing of the spacecraft and its subsystems.

"The Psyche team is not only elated that we have the go-ahead for Phase C, more importantly we are ready," said Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Tempe. "With the transition into this new mission phase, we are one big step closer to uncovering the secrets of Psyche, a giant mysterious metallic asteroid, and that means the world to us."

The mission still has three more phases to clear. Phase D, which will begin sometime in early 2021, includes final spacecraft assembly and testing, along with the August 2022 launch. Phase E, which begins soon after Psyche hits the vacuum of space, covers the mission's deep-space operations and science collection. Finally, Phase F occurs after the mission has completed its science operations; it includes both decommissioning the spacecraft and archiving engineering and science data.

The Psyche spacecraft will arrive at Asteroid Psyche on Jan. 31, 2026, after flying by Mars in 2023.

Asteroid Psyche is one of the most intriguing targets in the main asteroid belt. While most asteroids are rocky or icy bodies, scientists think Psyche is composed mostly of iron and nickel, similar to Earth's core. They wonder whether Psyche could be the nickel-iron heart, or exposed core, of an early planet maybe as large as Mars that lost its rocky outer layers through violent collisions billions of years ago. If so, it would provide a unique look into the solar system's distant past, when the kind of high-speed protoplanet encounters that created Earth and the other terrestrial planets were common.

The Psyche mission aims to understand the building blocks of planet formation by exploring firsthand a wholly new and uncharted type of world. Along with determining whether Psyche is the core of an early planet, the team wants to determine how old it is, whether it formed in similar ways to Earth's core and what its surface is like.

The spacecraft's instrument payload includes three science instruments. The mission's magnetometer is designed to detect and measure the remnant magnetic field of the asteroid. The multispectral imager will provide high-resolution images using filters to discriminate between Psyche's metallic and silicate constituents. Its gamma ray and neutron spectrometer will detect, measure and map Psyche's elemental composition. The mission also will test a sophisticated new laser communications technology, called Deep Space Optical Communications.

The Psyche mission is part of NASA's Discovery Program, a series of lower-cost, highly focused robotic space missions. Psyche Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton is the director of ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration. Other ASU researchers on the Psyche mission team include Jim Bell, deputy principal investigator and co-investigator; David Williams, co-investigator; and Catherine Bowman, co-investigator and student-collaborations lead.

ASU leads the mission. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is responsible for the mission's overall management, system engineering, integration and test, and mission operations. Maxar Space Solutions, formerly Space Systems Loral, in Palo Alto, California, is providing a high-power solar electric propulsion spacecraft chassis.

For more information about NASA's Psyche mission go to:

http://www.nasa.gov/psyche

Quelle: NASA

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Update: 15.06.2019

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NASA's Psyche Mission to Metal Asteroid Enters Final Design Phase

NASA’s Psyche mission is preparing to go someplace that no other planetary mission has been to before: a metal asteroid. Now, NASA Headquarters in Washington has approved the start of the final design and fabrication phase of the mission, known as Phase C.

Psyche is scheduled to launch in August 2022 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida and will investigate the asteroid 16 Psyche in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which is much richer in metals than most asteroids, and is thought to likely be the remnant core of a once larger planet.

In Phase C, the Psyche team will finalize the system design of the spacecraft, develop detailed plans and procedures and complete both assembly and testing of the spacecraft and its subsystems.

“The Psyche team is not only elated that we have the go-ahead for Phase C, more importantly we are ready,” said Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Tempe. “With the transition into this new mission phase, we are one big step closer to uncovering the secrets of Psyche, a giant mysterious metallic asteroid, and that means the world to us.”

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Artist’s concept of what Psyche might look like. Image Credit: Maxar/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech

The continuation on to Phase C is great news, but there are still three more phases to be completed. Phase D will begin sometime in early 2021, and includes final spacecraft assembly and testing, as well as the August 2022 launch. Phase E covers the mission’s deep-space operations and science data collection. Finally, Phase F occurs after the mission has completed its science operations, and includes both decommissioning the spacecraft and archiving the engineering and science data for later study.

It is exciting to see the progress of this mission, since no other spacecraft has visited this kind of an asteroid before. While most asteroids are rocky, 16 Psyche is composed of iron and nickel, very similar to Earth’s own core.

The Psyche spacecraft will use three science instruments to explore the asteroid: the magnetometer will detect and measure the remnant magnetic field of the asteroid, the multispectral imager will provide high-resolution images using filters to discriminate between Psyche’s metallic and silicate constituents and the gamma ray and neutron spectrometer will detect, measure and map Psyche’s elemental composition.

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A computer shape model of the asteroid Psyche. Image Credit: Michael K. Shepard/Bloomburg University

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Radar images of 16 Psyche from Nov. 28 – Dec. 9, 2015, by the Arecibo Observatory. These are the best views we have so far of this enigmatic little world. Image Credit: Arecibo Observatory.

Also to be tested is a sophisticated new laser communications technology, called Deep Space Optical Communication (DSOC). This encodes data in photons rather than radio waves to communicate between a probe in deep space and Earth. Using light instead of radio allows the spacecraft to communicate more data in a given amount of time.

If 16 Psyche really is the remnant core of a former planet, that planet may have been as large as Mars, and its outer mantle and crust were probably ripped away by violent collisions with other asteroids and protoplanets as the planet was forming in the early Solar System. The metallic “heart” is all that remains now.

16 Psyche represents a unique exploration opportunity for planetary scientists. Being able to study this type of asteroid up close will help scientists determine how old it is and whether it formed in a similar manner to Earth’s core. Even if it isn’t a former planet’s core, it will still provide valuable information about the building blocks of planets in the early Solar System. And of course, we will get to see what it actually looks like. Right now, we only have low-resolution fuzzy photos and radar images, as well as shape models, to go by. But the Psyche spacecraft will see the asteroid in exquisite detail.

Psyche will arrive at the asteroid on Jan. 31, 2026 and will orbit it until at least 2027.

Video animation of Psyche spacecraft flying around the asteroid. Video Credit: NASA

The asteroid was discovered in 1852 and was named after the nymph Psyche, who married Cupid but was put to death by Venus. At Cupid’s request, however, Jupiter made Psyche immortal.

A growing number of asteroids, and comets, have been visited by spacecraft from Earth, but they have all been rocky and/or icy bodies. This is the first time that a metallic asteroid will be studied up close. The findings will help scientists to better understand how our Solar System originated and evolved over billions of years.

The Psyche mission, led by Arizona State University, is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, a series of lower-cost, highly-focused robotic space missions. More information about Psyche is available on the mission website.

Qwelle:

Radar images of 16 Psyche from Nov. 28 – Dec. 9, 2015, by the Arecibo Observatory. These are the best views we have so far of this enigmatic little world. Image Credit: Arecibo Observatory.

Also to be tested is a sophisticated new laser communications technology, called Deep Space Optical Communication (DSOC). This encodes data in photons rather than radio waves to communicate between a probe in deep space and Earth. Using light instead of radio allows the spacecraft to communicate more data in a given amount of time.

If 16 Psyche really is the remnant core of a former planet, that planet may have been as large as Mars, and its outer mantle and crust were probably ripped away by violent collisions with other asteroids and protoplanets as the planet was forming in the early Solar System. The metallic “heart” is all that remains now.

16 Psyche represents a unique exploration opportunity for planetary scientists. Being able to study this type of asteroid up close will help scientists determine how old it is and whether it formed in a similar manner to Earth’s core. Even if it isn’t a former planet’s core, it will still provide valuable information about the building blocks of planets in the early Solar System. And of course, we will get to see what it actually looks like. Right now, we only have low-resolution fuzzy photos and radar images, as well as shape models, to go by. But the Psyche spacecraft will see the asteroid in exquisite detail.

Psyche will arrive at the asteroid on Jan. 31, 2026 and will orbit it until at least 2027.

Video animation of Psyche spacecraft flying around the asteroid. Video Credit: NASA

The asteroid was discovered in 1852 and was named after the nymph Psyche, who married Cupid but was put to death by Venus. At Cupid’s request, however, Jupiter made Psyche immortal.

A growing number of asteroids, and comets, have been visited by spacecraft from Earth, but they have all been rocky and/or icy bodies. This is the first time that a metallic asteroid will be studied up close. The findings will help scientists to better understand how our Solar System originated and evolved over billions of years.

The Psyche mission, led by Arizona State University, is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, a series of lower-cost, highly-focused robotic space missions. More information about Psyche is available on the mission website.

Quelle: AS

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Update: 5.03.2020

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NASA taps SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket to launch mission to metal asteroid

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File photo of a Falcon Heavy launch in April 2019. Credit: SpaceX

NASA has selected SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket to launch a robotic mission in July 2022 to explore Psyche, a metal-rich asteroid located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The Psyche probe is NASA’s first mission assigned to fly on SpaceX’s heavy-lift launcher.

A Falcon Heavy rocket, formed by combining three SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket boosters together, will launch the Psyche mission and two smaller NASA science probes from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SpaceX and United Launch Alliance were eligible to launch the Psyche mission, and NASA officials selected SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy for the job. NASA announced the launch contract — valued at $117 million — in a press release Friday.

The contract value includes the launch service and other mission-related costs, according to NASA.

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy proposal was believed to be competing against a ULA bid to launch Psyche on an Atlas 5 rocket.

In a tweet, SpaceX wrote that NASA “requires the highest level of launch vehicle reliability” for the Psyche mission.

With the Psyche launch contract awarded by NASA, SpaceX has confirmed at least four missions in its backlog booked on Falcon Heavy rockets — one each for the U.S. Space Force, the National Reconnaissance Office, NASA and Viasat. Inmarsat, a London-based commercial satellite operator, also has a contract option to launch a future mission on a Falcon Heavy vehicle.

“We are super excited to have a launch vehicle,” said Lindy Elkins-Tanton, the Psyche mission’s principal investigator from Arizona State University.

Scientists and engineers were designing the spacecraft to be “agnostic” to the launch vehicle NASA selected for the mission, Elkins-Tanton said in an interview with Spaceflight Now.

“We were being agnostic and trying really hard to capture the shock and vibe (vibration) envelopes of either vehicle and make sure that everything would be OK either way,” she said. “We got lots of good support and help to do that, but it’s always much better to have only just one design that you’re working on.”

The Falcon Heavy rocket is the most powerful launcher currently in operation, with 27 Merlin engines producing some 5.1 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. SpaceX has successfully launched three Falcon Heavy missions since 2018, and a fourth flight is scheduled in late 2020.

NASA selected the Psyche mission for development in January 2017, along with a robotic mission named Lucy to fly by seven asteroids. Lucy will explore objects locked in orbits leading and trailing Jupiter, where scientists expect swarms of miniature worlds could hold clues about the formation of the solar system.

NASA announced last year that Lucy will lift off from Cape Canaveral in October 2021 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. The Atlas 5 contract is valued at $148 million.

A space agency spokesperson said the Falcon Heavy rocket that will launch the Psyche mission will use all-new boosters, rather than previously-flown hardware recovered from earlier missions.

Lucy and Psyche are the 13th and 14th missions selected in NASA’s Discovery program, which manages a series of cost-capped planetary science missions. The cost of the Lucy and Psyche missions is limited to $450 million for each project, but the launch vehicle is not counted in the cost cap.

Maxar, formerly known as Space Systems/Loral, is building the Psyche spacecraft.

Elkins-Tanton said NASA’s choice of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket adds a “little shine” of extra excitement to the mission.

“Two things really excite me about it especially,” she said. “One is that from the beginning we’ve been trying to make this mission a step into the blended future of ‘New Space,’ plus ‘Old Space,’ plus NASA, doing big things together.

“So bringing Maxar in — that was a new partner for deep space for NASA at the time — and then working with a ‘New Space’ company on the rocket launch is kind of continuing on that pathway that we’re trying to do, to continue marching into the future,” she said. “Part of that is also our big attempts at major student collaborations and outreach, and I cannot imagine that flying on a Falcon Heavy is going to hurt our outreach efforts.”

She said mission managers are convening a series of design reviews for the Psyche mission’s systems and instruments before a mission-level critical design review in May, when engineers will confirm the final design of the spacecraft.

In the meantime, production of the chassis of the Psyche spacecraft has started at Maxar, which will assemble the probe at a facility in Palo Alto, California.

“We’ve seen parts of the chassis, and that is incredibly exciting after all these years of planning,” Elkins-Tanton said. “Our idea for this mission started in 2011, so here we are nine years later seeing our first bits of flight hardware. It’s actually pretty breathtaking.”

The Psyche mission will launch in July 2022 from Florida’s Space Coast and reach Mars in May 2023, where it will use the planet’s gravity to slingshot into the asteroid belt. The spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at asteroid Psyche in January 2026, then orbit the metallic world for 21 months.

The asteroid is about the size of Massachusetts and has an irregular shape. It completes one rotation every 4.2 hours.

Observations of Psyche through telescopes suggest the asteroid is composed largely of nickel-iron metal, suggesting the asteroid could be the leftover core from the building block of a planet, or planetesimal, in the early solar system more than 4 billion years ago.

Artist’s concept of the Psyche spacecraft, which will conduct a direct exploration of an asteroid thought to be a stripped planetary core. Credit: SSL/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech

“When we wrote the proposal, we and most of the science community were pretty sure that Psyche was maybe 90 percent metal on its surface,” Elkins-Tanton said. “And the only way we could ever imagine that a body like that could be made was by collisional stripping of the rocky exterior off of that metal core of a very, very early tiny planet called a planetesimal.”

These early building blocks of planets formed a metal core and a rocky exterior in the first few million years of the solar system, according to Elkins-Tanton.

With scientific interest in Psyche ramping up as NASA prepares to send a probe to the asteroid, researchers are re-evaluating their preliminary conclusions. No spacecraft has ever explored a metallic asteroid up-close.

“What we did is we took all of the existing data about the asteroid Psyche — the whole science team worked on this for about 10 months — and tried to look at the data from every point of view,” Elkins-Tanton said.

Scientists compared the data on Psyche with meteorites that have fallen to Earth, along with planetary formation models and other asteroids.

“And what we’re finding is that it looks like, the current data seems to indicate, that Psyche is potentially less metallic than we thought it was originally,” Elkins-Tanton said. “It might just be 30 to 60 percent metal, instead of 90 percent metal. Maybe to any sensible person that would seem to be relatively unimportant, but in terms of how we think it might have been made, it makes it much more confusing.

“How you get something that’s more or less a half-and-half mixture of metal and rock on this scale is actually much weirder,” she said. “So to a lot of us this makes it much more exciting. Now we know less about what Psyche is than we thought we knew a few years ago, and the only way we’re going to answer this mystery is by going there. So it makes even more motivating.”

Secondary payloads to hitch a ride with Psyche

NASA plans to send two smaller science probes into space with Psyche aboard the Falcon Heavy rocket in 2022, pending final mission reviews.

One of the missions, named Janus, will launch two microsatellites to fly by two binary asteroid systems, which consist of a pair of objects orbiting one another. The Janus team is led by Daniel Scheeres of the University of Colorado, and Lockheed Martin will build and operate the two Janus spacecraft — each about the size of a suitcase — as they head for their asteroid targets.

The Janus spacecraft will carry visible and infrared imagers to survey the binary asteroid systems.

The binary asteroids are “so small that you could actually jump from one body to the other body in space,” Scheeres said. “No one’s studied them up close before, so Janus will be the first to do this, and it’s going to give us insight into the formation of the solar system, how the solar system has evolved up to the current day, and is still evolving.”

“We are very excited by the selection of the launch vehicle, as it allows us to complete many of our engineering designs,” he wrote in an email to Spaceflight Now.

The other mission slated to accompany the Psyche mission into space is the Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers, or EscaPADE, mission.

Like Janus, EscaCAPE consists of two smallsats. But instead of targeting asteroids, the EscaPADE probes will fly to Mars to study how the solar wind is driving molecules out of the Martian atmosphere and into space.Building on NASA’s MAVEN mission, which has orbited Mars since 2014, the EscaPADE smallsats would carry science instruments to measure magnetic fields, plasma, ion densities and electron flows around Mars. Unlike MAVEN, which is a single satellite, the EscaPADE mission would simultaneously measure the environment around Mars from two different locations.

The principal investigator for EscaPADE is Robert Lillis from the University of California, Berkeley.

Grey Hautaloma, a NASA spokesperson, said the final approval of the Janus and EscaPADE missions is pending review and final selection.

Janus and EscaPADE are two of three missions selected for further study by NASA last year through the Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration, or SIMPLEx, program. The SIMPLEx program aims to advance development of a new class of lower-cost small interplanetary science probes to launch as rideshare payloads on the same rocket with larger missions.

The SIMPLEx missions are cost-capped at $55 million, excluding launch costs.

The other SIMPLEx mission under evaluation is Lunar Trailblazer. That mission is designed to launch as a secondary payload with an unidentified geostationary satellite, then head into lunar orbit to map water on the moon.

Quelle: SN

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Update: 20.04.2020

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Psyche: Five Questions with Maxar’s Program Management

On April 15, 2020, Maxar Technologies completed an important milestone in building Psyche, a spacecraft that will launch in 2022 to explore a metallic asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. The milestone, called the solar electric propulsion chassis critical design review (CDR), marks the end of the spacecraft engineering phase and the start of the manufacturing phase.

We spoke with Peter Lord, Maxar’s Technical Director and Deputy Program Manager for Psyche, to learn about the importance of the CDR milestone and to hear the latest updates on the program.

Maxar: How did you get involved in the mission, and what is your role?

Peter Lord: I’ve been with Psyche since 2014. I led the response to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s (JPL) initial request for information regarding Maxar’s solar electric propulsion (SEP) capabilities. JPL was surveying industry for existing technologies for use on their next round of Discovery-class mission proposals for NASA. We worked with JPL on several formulation studies, including bringing a team of our experts to JPL for an intensive Team X design exercise. Maxar’s proven experience in solar electric propulsion was a perfect fit for the program, which led to our selection as the industrial partner for the mission. The Principal Investigator, Lindy Elkins-Tanton from ASU, went to great lengths to forge one of the most inspired and talented teams I have ever been a part of. We were welcomed into the inner circle of brilliant scientists at the heart of the mission to Psyche. It was exciting to know we had a shot at fostering a new relationship with NASA by leveraging Maxar’s 1300-class commercial spacecraft platform to accomplish cutting edge scientific exploration.

As Technical Director, I focus on the unique challenges of adapting a commercial spacecraft for use on a NASA mission. Maxar has a deeply ingrained culture driven to reduce costs whenever possible, while at the same time never compromising performance or reliability. As Deputy Program Manager, I provide backup to our Program Manager Steve Scott.

Psyche will launch in 2022 to explore a metallic asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter.

Maxar: What does the CDR milestone achieve?

Peter Lord: The CDR signifies that we have committed to the final design of the spacecraft, and will begin the manufacturing phase. To get to this point, we completed many trade studies to figure out the best way to modify our existing designs to accommodate the unique needs of this particular mission and to build the spacecraft. For new designs or modifications to existing design, we’ve done extensive design analysis then built and test engineering models to make sure everything works just the way we want it to. Since the design and manufacturing phases overlap, we are at the peak number of people working on the program, with over 100 engineers working full time. With the CDR complete, our design engineers will wrap up their work and move on to new programs, while the manufacturing and test engineers ramp up their effort as we begin to assemble and test the spacecraft.

Maxar: What key innovations is Maxar delivering for Psyche?

Peter Lord: For NASA Discovery missions, integrated science and engineering teams compete to offer the best science for a fixed amount of money, and so cost-effectiveness is essential. The Maxar and JPL engineering team’s job is to lower the cost of getting the science team’s instruments to the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter -- a journey of over a billion miles. That’s where Maxar’s commercial heritage came in. With more spacecraft in geosynchronous orbit than any other manufacturer in the world and more than 35 Maxar-built spacecraft with electric propulsion currently on-orbit, Maxar was able to offer a highly cost-effective spacecraft solution for Psyche. The innovation came from working closely with JPL engineers to adapt our 1300-class platform to meet NASA’s mission requirements with as little change as possible. Since solar electric propulsion systems are more efficient than typical bi-propellant propulsion systems, scientists can get their payloads to further destinations in space and ultimately do more science for less money.

Maxar: Why is it important to visit Psyche?

Peter Lord: First, the asteroid Psyche may be able to tell us how Earth’s core and the cores of the other terrestrial (rocky) planets came to be. We can never go to the Earth’s core. Because we cannot see or measure Earth’s core directly, the Psyche asteroid may offer a unique window into the violent history of collisions and accretion that created the terrestrial planets. It is the only known place in our solar system where we can examine what may be a metallic core of an early planet. Second, Psyche changes the way government programs are run by lowering the cost of exploring the solar system. Instead of paying for a one-of-a-kind, custom-built spacecraft designed entirely to mission requirements, JPL partnered with Maxar to leverage our existing 1300-class commercial design, which offers a cost-effective, commercial price and accelerated schedule. For Psyche, we’re pairing the lightest, smallest graphite spacecraft body we have with a medium-sized solar array and our latest electric propulsion system. JPL is providing communications, the flight computer and all the software needed to fly a spacecraft deep into the solar system far from human help.

Psyche’s spacecraft body being tested at Maxar’s Palo Alto, California manufacturing facility.

Maxar: What’s the next step for the program?

Peter Lord: We are currently testing Psyche’s spacecraft body, a lightweight graphite cylindrical structure at the heart of our 1300-class spacecraft design. Because the design of the 1300-class spacecraft body already existed, we were able to manufacture one for Psyche months before completing the CDR milestone. It’s exciting to see our ideas starting to turn into reality! Our next major milestone is the Project CDR, where the science and engineering teams come together to present our combined work to NASA. During this crucial decision point, NASA must formally approve the team’s detailed plans for the exploration of Psyche before we can take the next steps on our way to launch in 2022.

A Maxar technician prepares to integrate part of Psyche’s electric propulsion subsystem.
Quelle: MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES

 

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