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NASA Pauses Psyche, a Mission to a Metal-Rich Asteroid


Engineers working on the Psyche mission spacecraft in April at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.

NASA is forming an independent review panel to investigate what went wrong and suggest what should be done next.

Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Computer software delays pushed back the launch of a NASA spacecraft to explore what appears to be a metal asteroid that may be the core of a protoplanet that was blown apart in the early days of the solar system by a giant collision.

Now the mission will not get off the ground at all this year, NASA announced on Friday.

The completed spacecraft, named Psyche after the asteroid it is to visit in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter, is sitting at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and had been scheduled to launch from there on Aug. 1 aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. However, the key navigation software for guiding and controlling the spacecraft's movements in space was several months late.

In addition, the testing setup, which sends signals to the spacecraft computer making it think it is already in space, did not work properly when engineers tried to merge components from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, which is managing the mission, and Maxar, the company that built the Psyche spacecraft.

From The New York Times
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