Space Image

NASA Psyche Set To Launch In October

Originally planned to launch in August 2022, Psyche is on track to launch during its next launch window, in October.

  • More details coming soon...
Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Tue Jun 13 2023Written by Zac Aubert

Originally planned to launch in August 2022, Psyche is officialy on track to launch during its next launch window, in October.

NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and Caltech have received high praise from an independent review board for there work to rectify the delays in the Psyche mission.

The review board was established last summer after the mission team requested a delay in the spacecraft's launch to the metal-rich asteroid Psyche. In November 2022, the independent review board provided recommendations to address both project-specific and institutional issues at JPL that contributed to the launch delay.

After conducting follow-up reviews with the Psyche project, JPL, and Caltech, the board's latest report, released on May 30, commends the outstanding actions taken since November. 

The review board, led by retired aerospace executive A. Thomas Young, initially identified workforce issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic as a contributing factor to the launch delay. It also highlighted additional factors such as staffing, communication, and management oversight. In response, JPL made direct efforts to address the concerns related to the Psyche project and the institutional functioning of the laboratory. The mission team was reinforced with experienced members, significant workforce reorganization took place, and comprehensive metrics were adopted to monitor progress and operational readiness. Senior management oversight of the mission was also improved.

The review board commended JPL and Caltech, stating that the response process by JPL's director and senior leadership was "world class" and praised the accomplishments of the entire organization.

In terms of institutional improvements, JPL swiftly updated its hybrid work policy to enhance collaboration and communication by increasing the number of days spent onsite. The laboratory's efforts to attract and retain experienced engineering staff were deemed exceptional, with the Psyche mission benefiting from these initiatives.

JPL leadership focused on clarifying roles, responsibilities, and technical skillsets within the engineering organization. They also ensured that project team members were aware of the channels to raise concerns. The lessons learned from the Psyche mission will be applied to other projects, including Europa Clipper and Mars Sample Return. Monthly project status reviews were revamped to enhance risk understanding at all levels of the organization.

JPL Director Laurie Leshin expressed her satisfaction with the results, stating that addressing the issues raised by the review board has been a central focus since she took on the role.

The strong response to the board's findings demonstrates JPL's ability to overcome challenges and improve overall as they work on missions to understand Earth, explore the solar system and the universe, and search for signs of life.

The review board also emphasized the need for clearer definition of responsibilities for NASA's standing review boards to ensure effective program and project management oversight, increasing the chances of mission success.

The Psyche spacecraft is set to launch from LC-39A at NASA Kennedy Space Center aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, it will reach the asteroid Psyche in August 2029. It will orbit the asteroid for 26 months, providing insights into planetary formation, a better understanding of the interiors of terrestrial planets like Earth, and the examination of a world predominantly composed of metal.