SpaceX has been selected to help NASA launch scientific payloads to an asteroid located between Jupiter and Mars as part of an estimated $117M effort to study planet collisions and metal particles in the solar system.
NASA said Saturday it expects SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch vehicle to lift off at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida by July 2022 on a mission to explore the sun-orbiting asteroid called Psyche.
The agency intends to study Psyche’s nickel-iron core elements to shed light on the origin of terrestrial planets.
Falcon Heavy will also carry secondary payloads such as the Janus study, which will focus on binary asteroids, and the Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers study, which will center on the Martian atmosphere.
Maxar Technologies (NYSE: MAXR) will provide a spacecraft chassis with solar electric propulsion features to the mission. The company's Space Systems Loral business secured the original $75M award to manufacture the propulsion chassis in 2017.