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Building the Psyche Asteroid Explorer

8 Jul 2020, 14:27 UTC
Building the Psyche Asteroid Explorer
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

If all goes well (an often perilous assumption, as JWST so frequently reminds us), NASA’s Psyche mission to the intriguing asteroid of the same name will lift off in about two years. We’re now moving out of the design and planning stage into manufacturing the spacecraft hardware, this following a period of testing on the core engineering models that will deliver the spacecraft to its target in the main asteroid belt. The critical design review, a shakeout of the three science instruments and engineering subsystems, has just been passed with flying colors.

Principal investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton (Arizona State University) calls the process “one of the most intense reviews a mission goes through in its entire life cycle.” True enough, as everything from telecommunications, power and propulsion must pass the test, not to mention the flight avionics and computing systems. We’re a long way past the digital blueprint stage, having followed it up with prototypes and engineering models of the science instruments and engineering subsystems, all performed before the flight hardware could be built.
“This is planning on steroids” said Elkins-Tanton. “And it includes trying to understand down to seven or eight levels of detail exactly how everything on the spacecraft ...

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