Crucial Intersection of Metal and Milestone: Anticipation Builds for Psyche’s Imminent Liftoff

by Henrik Andersen
10 comments
NASA Psyche Mission Launch

Situated at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket carrying the Psyche spacecraft is scheduled for launch on Friday, October 13, 2023, at 10:19 a.m. EDT. Image Credit: SpaceX

Just recently, mission control teams gave the approval to commence the fueling process for the Falcon Heavy’s trio of first-stage core boosters.

The Falcon Heavy is a dual-stage launch vehicle consisting of a central core and twin side boosters. It is powered by 27 Merlin engines that are fueled by a combination of RP-1, a high-grade kerosene, and liquid oxygen (LOX), producing a total thrust force of 5 million pounds. The fueling of RP-1 and LOX has now begun.

Scheduled to liftoff from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on October 13, 2023, the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket is prepared to carry the Psyche spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA Television

Approximately 45 minutes remain until the planned launch of NASA’s Psyche mission from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Here is a detailed enumeration of significant events in today’s countdown and ascent phases, listed with their approximate timings:

Time Events

  • 00:53:00 SpaceX Launch Director confirms readiness for propellant loading
  • 00:50:00 Initiation of 1st stage RP-1 fuel loading
  • 00:45:00 Commencement of 1st stage LOX fueling
  • 00:35:00 Beginning of 2nd stage RP-1 fueling
  • 00:18:30 Start of 2nd stage LOX fueling
  • 00:07:00 Initiation of Falcon Heavy engine cooling
  • 00:00:59 Onboard computer directed to initiate final pre-launch protocols
  • 00:00:45 SpaceX Launch Director confirms readiness for liftoff
  • 00:00:20 Propellant tanks pressurization for flight
  • 00:00:06 Ignition sequence activated by engine controller
  • 00:00:00 Falcon Heavy ascends
  • 00:01:09 Max Q (Maximum aerodynamic stress on the rocket)
  • 00:02:25 Side boosters cease thrust (BECO)
  • 00:02:28 Detachment of side boosters
  • 00:02:40 Side boosters initiate boostback burns
  • 00:03:51 Conclusion of side boosters’ boostback burns
  • 00:03:55 Cessation of 1st stage main engine thrust (MECO)
  • 00:03:59 Separation of 1st and 2nd stages
  • 00:04:04 2nd stage engine ignition (SES)
  • 00:04:24 Deployment of payload fairing
  • 00:06:47 Ignition of side boosters’ re-entry burns
  • 00:07:04 Conclusion of side boosters’ re-entry burns
  • 00:08:00 Initiation of side boosters’ landing burns
  • 00:08:17 Touchdown of side boosters
  • 00:08:26 Termination of 2nd stage engine thrust (SECO-1)
  • 00:54:00 Re-ignition of 2nd stage engine (SES-2)
  • 00:56:12 Second-stage engine shutdown (SECO-2)
  • 01:02:24 Deployment of Psyche spacecraft

The NASA Psyche mission aims to investigate a unique metallic asteroid, named Psyche, which is believed to be the exposed core of an early planet. Located between Mars and Jupiter, this mission is expected to shed light on the origins of planets and the ancient dynamics of our solar system. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University/Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin

About NASA’s Psyche Mission

NASA’s Psyche Mission is a pioneering endeavor to explore a distinctive metal-rich asteroid, suitably named Psyche. Unlike most asteroids, which are primarily composed of rock or ice, Psyche is largely made of metallic iron and nickel. Scientists posit that Psyche could very well be the exposed core of an incomplete planet.

Situated in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Psyche provides an unparalleled opportunity to investigate the solar system’s early history and the mechanisms of planetary formation. By studying this celestial object, scientists anticipate gaining a deeper understanding of the tumultuous processes like collisions, accretion, and core exposure that might have shaped terrestrial planets, including Earth.

The spacecraft allocated for this mission comes equipped with advanced instruments such as magnetometers, multispectral imagers, and gamma-ray and neutron spectrometers. These instruments are intended to work in collaboration to offer a comprehensive analysis of the asteroid’s material composition, age, and possibly its genesis. Falling under NASA’s Discovery Program, the Psyche Mission encapsulates the program’s overarching aim to enrich our comprehension of the solar system’s evolutionary timeline.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about NASA Psyche Mission Launch

What is the NASA Psyche Mission?

The NASA Psyche Mission is a pioneering initiative aimed at exploring a unique metal-rich asteroid named Psyche. This asteroid is believed to be the exposed core of an early planet and is primarily composed of metallic iron and nickel. The mission seeks to offer insights into planetary formation and the early dynamics of our solar system.

When is the NASA Psyche Mission scheduled for launch?

The NASA Psyche Mission is scheduled for launch on Friday, October 13, 2023, at 10:19 a.m. EDT. The launch will take place from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A.

What rocket is being used for this mission?

The SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket is being used to carry the Psyche spacecraft. This rocket is a two-stage launch vehicle with a central core and two side boosters. It has 27 Merlin engines that produce a combined thrust force of 5 million pounds.

What are the key milestones in the launch and ascent phases?

The key milestones include propellant loading, engine chill, final pre-launch checks, liftoff, and various engine cutoff and stage separation events. Specific timings for these milestones have been provided, although they are approximate.

What kind of scientific equipment is onboard the Psyche spacecraft?

The Psyche spacecraft is equipped with advanced scientific instruments including magnetometers, multispectral imagers, and gamma-ray and neutron spectrometers. These instruments aim to provide a comprehensive analysis of the asteroid’s material composition, age, and possibly its origin.

Where is the Psyche asteroid located?

The Psyche asteroid is situated in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It offers an unparalleled opportunity to delve into the history of our solar system and understand the mechanisms of planetary formation.

What fuel is being used for the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket?

The Falcon Heavy rocket uses RP-1, a high-grade kerosene, and liquid oxygen (LOX) as propellants. The fueling of RP-1 and LOX has begun prior to the scheduled launch.

What is the ultimate goal of the NASA Psyche Mission?

The ultimate goal of the NASA Psyche Mission is to deepen our understanding of the solar system’s evolutionary journey. It falls under NASA’s Discovery Program and embodies the program’s overarching aim to explore fundamental questions about our universe.

Who are the key organizations involved in this mission?

The key organizations involved include NASA, SpaceX, JPL-Caltech, Arizona State University, and Space Systems Loral. These organizations have collaborated to make this groundbreaking mission possible.

What happens after the Psyche spacecraft deploys?

After deployment, the spacecraft will begin its journey toward the Psyche asteroid to conduct detailed analyses using its onboard scientific instruments. The mission aims to provide valuable insights into planetary formation and the early history of our solar system.

More about NASA Psyche Mission Launch

  • NASA’s Official Psyche Mission Overview
  • SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket Specifications
  • Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A Information
  • NASA Discovery Program Objectives
  • JPL-Caltech’s Role in the Psyche Mission
  • Arizona State University’s Contributions to Psyche Mission
  • Space Systems Loral’s Involvement in the Mission

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10 comments

William Chen October 13, 2023 - 4:21 pm

RP-1 and LOX, now that’s a power combo for a rocket. And 27 Merlin engines! Thats nuts. Cant wait for liftoff.

Reply
Beth White October 13, 2023 - 8:45 pm

I always wonder bout the fuel they use. RP-1 and LOX, sounds explosive. But hey, gotta get to space somehow, right?

Reply
Sarah Williams October 13, 2023 - 8:54 pm

So many milestones to hit before the actual launch. Makes me nervous just reading it. Fingers crossed everything goes smoothly.

Reply
John Smith October 13, 2023 - 9:39 pm

Wow, can’t believe the launch is so close! Psyche mission is gonna be a game changer. this is history in the making, folks.

Reply
Laura Miller October 14, 2023 - 1:42 am

Discovery Program’s doing some really cool stuff. First Lucy, now Psyche. What’s next on the agenda? Anyone know?

Reply
Emily Johnson October 14, 2023 - 2:20 am

Does anyone else wonder what we’ll find on Psyche? I mean it’s a metal asteroid, there’s got to be some crazy stuff up there!

Reply
Alex Perez October 14, 2023 - 10:01 am

With this kind of tech on board, we’ll probably learn things we never even thought to ask. So excited for what they find.

Reply
Tim Adams October 14, 2023 - 10:49 am

So what happens if one of those milestones is missed? Do they abort the mission or what? Makes ya think.

Reply
Mike O'Donnell October 14, 2023 - 1:25 pm

Falcon Heavy again, huh. SpaceX is rly leading the charge in space exploration these days.

Reply
Karen Lee October 14, 2023 - 2:28 pm

Its awesome to see so many organizations working together on this. NASA, SpaceX, universities – thats what I call teamwork.

Reply

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