NASA Begins Final Assembly of Spacecraft Destined for Asteroid Psyche


Psyche’s target is a metal-rich asteroid of the same name, which orbits the Sun in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Scientists think that Psyche is largely iron and nickel and could be the core of an early planet. Exploring the asteroid Psyche (about 140 miles, or 226 kilometers, wide) could lend valuable insight into how Earth and other planets formed.

Over the next 12 months, the project team will be working against the clock to meet deadlines in the runup to launch.

“It’s exciting watching it all come together, and it’s the part of the project life cycle that I love the most,” said Psyche Project Manager Henry Stone of JPL. “But it’s a really intense phase as well. It’s intricate choreography, and if one activity runs into a problem, it can impact the whole process. Staying on schedule at this phase of the mission is absolutely critical.”

The SEP Chassis comes to JPL with most of the engineering hardware systems already integrated. The Maxar team built the entire structure and integrated the hardware needed for the high-power electrical system, the propulsion systems, the thermal system, and the guidance and navigation system. The Psyche mission will take advantage of Maxar’s superefficient electric propulsion system to push Psyche through deep space. Maxar will also deliver the large, twin five-panel solar arrays that provide the power for the spacecraft systems.

“Delivering the SEP Chassis to NASA’s JPL is an incredible accomplishment for us at Maxar,” said Steven Scott, Maxar’s Psyche program manager. “I am so proud of our team. We’ve managed to design and build an SEP spacecraft for a billion-mile journey through a low-power environment, all while prioritizing the health and safety of our team during a global pandemic. The collaboration between Maxar, Arizona State University, and NASA’s JPL is a model for success, and we’re honored to be part of the Psyche Mission."