The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is targeting 5 Oct for the launch of its Psyche mission, designed to explore a metal-rich asteroid that could be the heart of a planet.
Psyche is set to launch atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy at 10:38 am Eastern Time on 5 Oct from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in the southeastern US state of Florida, according to NASA.
Within two weeks, technicians will begin encapsulating the spacecraft in its payload fairing -- the cone at the top of the rocket. The spacecraft will then move to the launch site for final preparations, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
After escaping Earth's gravity, the spacecraft will use solar electric propulsion to accomplish its six-year journey to the asteroid Psyche.
Measuring roughly 279 kilometers at its widest point, the asteroid Psyche presents a unique opportunity to explore a metal-rich body that may be part of a core of a planetesimal, the building block of an early planet, according to JPL.
Once the spacecraft reaches Psyche in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, it will spend about 26 months orbiting the asteroid, gathering images and other data that will tell scientists more about its history and what it is made of, said JPL.