SpaceX, after years of development and a lot of failures, is finally getting in some much needed commercial contracts. And as has been the case with most of its recent contracts, this new one comes in from NASA as well. According to an announcement from NASA today, SpaceX has been awarded a $117 million launch contract for the space agency’s probe to asteroid ‘Psyche’.
NASA’s Psyche mission will journey to a unique metal-rich asteroid, also named Psyche, which orbits the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. The asteroid is considered unique, as it appears to largely be made of the exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet – one of the building blocks of our solar system.
As a part of the mission, NASA will launch two secondary payloads: Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (EscaPADE), which will study the Martian atmosphere, and Janus, which will study binary asteroids.
NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida will manage the SpaceX launch service. The mission is led by Arizona State University. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is responsible for the mission’s overall management, system engineering, integration, testing and mission operations. Maxar Technologies is providing a high-power solar electric propulsion spacecraft chassis.
Off late, SpaceX has rapidly moved towards grabbing commercial contracts on the back of its highly successful Falcon 9 launch platform. Internally, the company has launched Starlink, a project meant to provide internet through a string 1000s of satellites circling the Earth. The project is purely commercial in nature, and the success has initiated of talks of separating Starlink as a Spin-Off with a potential IPO soon.