NASA is planning to launch its Psyche spacecraft this week for a rendezvous with what’s believed to be a metal-rich asteroid, but unsettled weather around the Kennedy Space Center in Florida could delay the lift-off.
At the current time, the launch using SpaceX’s triple-booster Falcon Heavy rocket continues to target 10:16 a.m. ET on Thursday, October 12. But in 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 U.S., predict only a 20% chance of acceptable weather conditions for launch, with anvil cloud, cumulous cloud, and surface electric field rules listed as the primary concerns.
Should the weather disrupt Thursday’s launch effort, the mission team has further opportunities through October 25 to send the spacecraft on its way.
The ambitious Psyche mission is of considerable interest as it will be the first to explore an asteroid with a surface that scientists believe contains large amounts of metal rather than rock or ice.
To reach the asteroid, the spacecraft will travel around 2.2 billion miles to a point between Mars and Jupiter in an epic voyage that will take almost six years.
Upon arrival, the spacecraft will deploy various science instruments to analyze the 170-mile-wide asteroid in the hope of gaining insight into the early stages of the solar system and also how rocky planets such as Earth and Mars formed.
The launch vehicle, the Falcon Heavy, is one of the most powerful rockets in operation today, and the Psyche mission will be its eighth flight since its first one in 2018.
It’s an exciting week for NASA as alongside the Psyche mission it’s also set to show off its first-ever rock sample gathered from an asteroid and brought to Earth. You can watch a live stream of the highly anticipated unveil on Wednesday.
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