NASA’s Psyche mission has passed an important review. However, its capability to stick to budget and schedules remains in doubt. Psyche is now in Phase C, which has the final design, development, and assembly of this spacecraft & its instruments. Lindy Tanton of ASU stated that this would allow probing Psyche asteroid in a better manner now.
It is bound to launch to an asteroid during August 2022. It will fly by Mars in 2023 and arrive at Psyche during Jan 2026. Composed of nickel and iron, the spacecraft is set to orbit the 200 km diameter asteroid, which is speculated to have been part of a bigger body during formation.
Several programmatic and technical issues still persist with Psyche, including concerns that it will have higher payloads than its instruments can handle. It uses heritage cameras that will experience more shock than it was built for. Neutron and gamma-ray spectrometers will also be facing higher loads. Design analysis & mounting strategies are being deployed to minimize vibration levels.
DSOC tech is being used to deliver high-bandwidth communication. However, the late delivery of this tech could delay the schedule. There is 70% confidence currently that project will be done on time within budgeted costs. Costs are expected between $907.3 and $957.3 million, with $213.2 million of it required in 2020.The mission lacks JPL staff and funding. Testing and integration could be done off-site since the Europa mission requires higher cleanliness standards and has to be prepared soon.
A GAO report stated that staffing shortfalls had delayed software development and systems engineering for this mission. Europa Clipper is also facing the same issue. A Congress Committee had a hearing about these shortages. Thomas Zurbuchen stated that Mars 2020 mission was the top priority at the moment.
He resisted calls to increase workforce size, stating that a strategic distribution of projects is all that’s required for smooth functioning. Center size didn’t have to be increased.