SpaceX fires up Falcon Heavy rocket ahead of Psyche asteroid mission launch (Image Credit: Space.com)
SpaceX’s powerful Falcon Heavy rocket has breathed fire again.
During Saturday’s test, team members briefly ignited the rocket’s 27 first-stage engines while keeping the vehicle anchored to the launch pad. The trial helped prep the Falcon Heavy for the launch of NASA’s Psyche asteroid mission, which is scheduled to take place from KSC’s Pad 39A on Oct. 12.
That liftoff will send Psyche on a long journey to its namesake, a bizarre metallic object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
If all goes according to plan, the probe will reach the asteroid Psyche in 2029, then study it from orbit for at least the next 26 months. The mission’s observations could teach scientists a great deal about planet formation and the solar system‘s early days. Researchers think the asteroid Psyche may be the exposed core of a protoplanet, a building block whose cousins came together to build Earth and other rocky worlds long ago.
The Falcon Heavy has flown seven times to date, most recently in July. Psyche will be the rocket’s first NASA mission.