- NASA is sending a mission to study the upcoming Psyche asteroid in 2026
- This is a 124-mile-wide space rock in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars.
- Manas is filled with metals worth around $10,000 (£8,072 quadrillion)
- If returned, it would make everyone billionaires and destabilize the economy.
- Spacecraft will use solar electric propellant and xenon to reach asteroid
- These will emit a beam of blue light as the speed of the spacecraft reaches 200,000mph. Till then
NASA is sending a spacecraft with a futuristic propulsion system that emits a ‘cool blue glow’ to the metal-rich asteroid Psyche next year.
The spacecraft is being developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., to detect the unusual rock that some scientists believe dates back to the early days of the solar system’s history. Could be the core of a destroyed planet.
Launched in August 2022, the spacecraft, also known as Psyche, will reach the space rock in 2026, traveling about 1.5 billion miles over 3.5 years.
To cover this great distance, Psyche will use solar electric thrusters and tanks filled with xenon, the natural gas used in car headlights and plasma TVs.
The four propellants will use electromagnetic fields to accelerate and eject charged atoms of xenon, and as they are expelled they generate thrust and a blue ray.
Manas is believed to contain enough metal that if it could be transported back to Earth, iron alone would cost $10,000 quadrillion (£8,072 quadrillion).
Its value would be large enough to destroy commodity prices and cause the collapse of the world economy – $73.7 trillion (£59.5 trillion).
The photo at left captures an operating electric Hull thruster that will propel NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, which is set to launch in August 2022 and travel to the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
First high-resolution measurement of surface temperature of asteroid Psyche confirms that it is filled with $10,000 quadrillion worth of precious metal
The spacecraft will arrive in early 2026 and will orbit the asteroid for nearly two years to probe its composition
NASA Psyche Mission: Timeline and Major Events
- Launch: 2022
- Solar Electric Cruise: 3.5 Years
- Arrival in Manas: 2026
- Observation period: 21 months In the classroom, mapping and studying the properties of the psyche
- 2022 – Psyche spacecraft launch from Kennedy Space Center, Florida
- 2023 – Mars flyby of Manas spacecraft
- 2026 – Manas spacecraft reaches asteroid’s orbit
- 2026-2027 – Manas spacecraft orbits asteroid Manas
This technology has never been used in spacecraft going beyond the Moon, it produces very gentle thrust.
That’s about the same pressure you’d feel while holding three 10p pieces, but despite the less pressure, it’s enough to speed the psyche through deep space.
With no atmospheric pull to hold it back, the spacecraft will eventually accelerate to speeds of up to 200,000 miles/h, helping it reach Psyche.
While the asteroid itself is 230 million miles from Earth, the total travel time would be 1.5 billion miles due to the need for a ‘fly-by’ to receive a gravity assist from Mars on its way to the rock.
The spacecraft will rely on the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle’s chemical rocket engine to detonate from the launchpad and escape Earth’s gravity.
But the rest of the journey, once separated from the Psyche launch vehicle, will rely on solar electric propulsion.
This form of propulsion begins with large solar arrays that convert sunlight into electricity, providing the power source for the spacecraft’s thrusters.
Known as Hall thrusters, its propulsion system is so efficient that it can operate without stopping for years without fuel, according to NASA JPL.
Psyche will carry 2,030lb (922kg) of xenon in its tanks during its flight.
Engineers working for NASA estimated that if using conventional chemical thrusters, the mission would burn about five times the amount of propellant, they designed it with Hall thrusters from the start.
Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California prepare to integrate four Hull thrusters (under red protective covers) into the agency’s Psyche spacecraft in July 2021
NASA’s Psyche spacecraft is photographed during the assembly, test and launch operations phase of the mission at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California in July 2021.
Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California work to integrate Hall thrusters into the agency’s Psyche spacecraft in this July 2021 photo. A thruster is visible on the side of the spacecraft under the red protective cover
“Even early on, when we were first designing the mission in 2012, we talked about solar electric propulsion as part of the plan,” said mission principal investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Phoenix. Was doing.
‘Without it, we wouldn’t have a Psyche mission,’ said Elkins-Tanton, ‘IT has become part of the character of the mission. A special team is required to calculate the trajectories and orbits using solar electric propulsion.’
Psyche will launch from historic Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it will fly to Mars for the first time in May 2023 thanks to a gravity assist.
Beginning in 2026, the thrusters will do the delicate job of getting the spacecraft into orbit around the asteroid Psyche, using a ‘ballet’ back into orbit around its target.
An artist’s illustration of what the 16 Psyche spacecraft would look like. It is to be launched in August 2022
It is hoped it will help NASA in its mission due to launch next year and arrive at the rock in 2026, as it will have a more detailed starting point in its observations.
NASA plans to explore $10,000 quadrillion asteroid that could boost the world’s economy