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Psyche will not launch as scheduled

NASA officials yesterday confirmed that because of software issues its asteroid mission Psyche will not launch as scheduled this year.

Due to the late delivery of the spacecraft’s flight software and testing equipment, NASA does not have sufficient time to complete the testing needed ahead of its remaining launch period this year, which ends on Oct. 11. The mission team needs more time to ensure that the software will function properly in flight.

…As the mission team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California began testing the system, a compatibility issue was discovered with the software’s testbed simulators. In May, NASA shifted the mission’s targeted launch date from Aug. 1 to no earlier than Sept. 20 to accommodate the work needed. The issue with the testbeds has been identified and corrected; however, there is not enough time to complete a full checkout of the software for a launch this year.

NASA management will conduct a review to understand what caused the problem.

As for when Psyche can next launch and reach the asteroid Psyche, the next launch windows in ’23 and ’24 will not arrive at the asteroid until ’29 or ’30 respectively, a flight time that is about two years longer than what the ’22 launch would have been.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Steve Richter

    Couldn’t the corrected software have been sent to the ship as it was on its way? And it is only money, so why not launch on schedule and correct problems as the occur? Once the next launch window arrives, decide then if a 2nd mission is necessary.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Perhaps this is an opportunity to redesign the mission as a sample-return one! Or maybe SpaceX could repurpose the unused Falcon Heavy and do one themselves… a few tons of rare earth metals might be quite valuable! /sarc

  • Concerned

    Psyche wasn’t perchance another fine Boeing contract, was it? I hope it wasn’t an in-house JPL project—although with the rampant woke politics infusing that Pasadena campus, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if their decades-long strength of engineering excellence has atrophied.

  • Jeff Wright

    The Pioneers and Voyagers were much simpler. That should have been a baseline. Popular Electronics level tech.

    SLS lost Clipper…it might pick this up…and the launch window be less of a problem.

  • sippin_bourbon

    I see a lot of articles about these space probes. Each one is tailored, unique, specific. And for some targets, I can see that. But if we massed produced (by which I mean, 3 -5 a year) and pushed them out into the solar system, that would provide astronomers, astrophysicists, astrobiologists, and planetary scientists enough data to keep them all busy for the next decade.

    The only things that would be special would be launch windows, and trajectory plans.

    At this point, we have a variety of platforms that can launch stuff for a given size/weight.

    Design a probe for a rocket that is capable of launching often. Standardize. Maybe “Size large” for those that need an RTG to survive the the trip to the outer planets, and a “Size small” for the inner solar system. Build them is series, buy the launch system, and go.

  • sippin_bourbon: A bit of history that relates to your comment about standardizing. NASA actually attempted to do this for all its first astronomical probes in the 1960s, and found it really didn’t work very well. No one got the best data possible, and the effort didn’t really save any money. In fact, in many ways it cost more.

    That was then, however, at the very beginning of the space age. Such an effort then really didn’t make sense, because no one yet know what the best standardized parts or power modules or communications gear should be. Today the situation is very different. Such an approach could work. The way to do it however is not by government fiat, but by competing companies offering these standardized components for sale.

    Which by the way, is beginning to happen.

  • sippin_bourbon

    Mr Z.

    I can see that. But also to note, back then, the capabilities were slim. Spectroscopy was bulky. Imagery was barely off film.
    None of the lessons of how to manage communications were learned yet. Was the deep space network even around yet?

    The tech advances may have changed the game.

    But no one is going to offer such a standardized probe unless NASA, ESA or Well funded University programs announce that they need something like it.

    In order for capitalism to work, there must be a need. We are still too attached to the outcomes of the decadal survey.

  • Richard M

    Psyche wasn’t perchance another fine Boeing contract, was it?

    Maxar, actually.

  • I do not know who wrote the flight software, which was late, or the faulty simulation testing equipment they need to use with the software to test it, but can’t, but both are the source of the problem. Both jobs were probably subcontracted out.

  • Edward

    Standardizing exploration probes can be a problem. Different destinations would have different missions, as we saw with the differences between the “twin” rovers, Curiosity and Perseverance, on Mars. One thing that could be standardized is the basic spacecraft upon which the exploration payload is mounted, but even this could have different requirements if one is better off using a chemical rocket and another is better with an ion engine.

    The various companies that build geostationary communication satellites have their own standard “bus” spacecraft, however despite the mission being the same — communication between locations on Earth — the payloads are fairly unique. Sometimes a customer asks for two to six satellites with identical payloads, but their next order, a few years later, will be different.

    With exploration becoming more and more commercial, I suspect that we will soon start seeing as much standardization as is practical.

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