Miami, United States, Oct 13 (EFE) – NASA’s Psyche mission lifted off Friday from a platform at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida (United States) intending to reach Psyche, a metal-rich asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter.
The mission is the first to explore an asteroid with a surface containing significant amounts of metal instead of rock or ice. Scientists hope to learn more about the origin of the Earth’s core and that of other planets.
The Psyche spacecraft will arrive at its destination in August 2029 after a journey of 3.5 billion kilometers.
After a series of delays, the latest due to bad weather, the mission blasted off on schedule Friday at 10:19 a.m. Eastern U.S. time (14:19 GMT) from Cape Canaveral.
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket blasted off with the Psyche spacecraft atop it. Two and a half minutes after liftoff, two of the three boosters that powered the spacecraft, which had 27 Merlin engines, separated after completing their mission.
They landed without incident about eight minutes after liftoff on pads at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, a neighbor of the Kennedy Space Center, for future reuse.
Within an hour of liftoff from Florida, the Psyche spacecraft jettisoned the Falcon Heavy’s central booster. The booster will not be used again and will end up in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Today’s launch marks the eighth Falcon Heavy launch and the first time SpaceX’s top-of-the-line rocket has been used for a NASA science mission.
The spacecraft will now continue its journey on its own, powered by solar panels.
If all goes as planned, the spacecraft will reach the vicinity of Mars in May 2026, and from there, with the help of the Red Planet’s gravity, it will continue to the Psyche asteroid. EFE