NASA plans to launch the Psyche spacecraft this week to rendezvous with an asteroid believed to be rich in metals, but erratic weather around the Kennedy Space Center in Florida could delay the launch.
Currently, launch using SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy triple-booster rocket continues to be targeted for 10:16 ET on Thursday, October 12. a message posted on its website on Tuesday, NASA said that officials at the 45th Weather Squadron, which provides detailed assessments for air and space operations in the US, predicted only a 20% chance of acceptable weather conditions for the launch, with runway clouds, cumulus clouds, and surface electric field rules are listed as major concerns.
If weather disrupts Thursday’s launch attempt, the mission team has a further window of opportunity until October 25 to send the spacecraft on its way.
Psyche’s ambitious mission is particularly exciting because it will be the first mission to explore an asteroid with a surface that scientists believe contains large amounts of metal, not rock or ice.
To reach the asteroid, the spacecraft will travel approximately 2.2 billion miles to a point between Mars and Jupiter in an epic journey that will take nearly six years.
Upon arrival, the spacecraft will deploy a variety of science instruments to analyze the 170-mile-wide asteroid in hopes of gaining insight into the early stages of the solar system and also how rocky planets like Earth and Mars formed.
The launch vehicle, Falcon Heavy, is one of the most powerful rockets in service today, and the Psyche mission will be its eighth flight since its first flight in 2018.
This is an exciting week for NASA because in addition to the Psyche mission, they will also show off the first rock samples collected from an asteroid and brought to Earth. You can watch a live broadcast of the highly anticipated reveal on Wednesday.