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How to watch NASA’s Psyche mission launch to a metal asteroid this week

[UPDATE: NASA has called off Thursday’s launch due to poor weather conditions and is now targeting Friday, October 13. Full details below]

NASA will launch its latest mission, Psyche, this week. The spacecraft will visit a strange asteroid that is thought to be made almost entirely of metal, studying it to understand more about the formation of planets in our solar system.

Psyche Launches to a Metal Asteroid (Official NASA Broadcast)

The mission has had some troubles and delays but is now ready to go ahead with the launch this Friday, and the event will be livestreamed by NASA so you can watch along at home. We’ve got the details below:

What to expect from the launch

This artist's-concept illustration depicts the spacecraft of NASA's Psyche mission near the mission's target, the metal asteroid Psyche.
This artist’s concept illustration depicts the spacecraft of NASA’s Psyche mission near the mission’s target, the metal asteroid Psyche. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin

The spacecraft will launch using a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Once it has left Earth’s atmosphere, it will travel around 2.2 billion miles to the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter where it will go into orbit around asteroid Psyche. The journey will take just under six years, with the spacecraft’s arrival at the asteroid scheduled for 2029.

The aim is for the spacecraft to begin its main mission in August 2029, when it will use its instruments including a camera, spectrometer, and magnetometer to investigate the metal asteroid. Psyche is around 170 miles across and is of particular interest to scientists because it is thought to be the core of an object called a planetesimal, which is one of the early stages of a forming planet. Studying Psyche could help scientists understand the early stages of the solar system and how rocky planets like Earth or Mars formed.

In addition to the Psyche spacecraft, there will also be a secondary passenger along for the launch: a technology demonstration called Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC). This small box attached to the spacecraft will test out using lasers to transmit data from beyond the moon, allowing higher bandwidth communications for future NASA missions. The DSOC will travel along with Psyche and transmit for the first two years of its journey, testing out the new communication system.

How to watch the launch

The launch will be livestreamed on one of NASA’s TV channels, so you can watch the whole launch event. Coverage begins at 9:15 a.m. ET (6:15 a.m. PT) on Friday, October 13, with liftoff scheduled for 10:19 a.m. ET (7:19 a.m. PT).

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Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
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