The probe is set to launch in August 2022, after which it will endure a frigid 3.5-year journey through space before achieving orbit around Psyche on January 31, 2026.
Some scientists believe that Psyche was once an early solar system planet that suffered a violent collision with a large impactor billions of years ago. This event could have stripped the world of its outer crust, leaving behind the metallic core that we observe today.
Present-day Psyche orbits in our solar system's main asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter, and is thought to have a nickel-iron composition, which would give it a similar makeup to Earth's core. By sending a spacecraft to explore this ancient body, NASA could glean insights into the processes that shaped the formation of our solar system. It could also present a rare opportunity to study the exposed core of another world.
The mission to Psyche recently passed a major review, allowing it to transition from a preliminary design stage, known as Phase B, to Phase C, during which the hardware will take shape. Scientists and engineers will now begin finalizing the design of the spacecraft and instruments, prior to fabricating, assembling, and finally testing them.