On Friday October 13th, 2023 SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy lifted off carrying NASA’s Psyche spacecraft on a two billion mile trek to the asteroid of its namesake. The mission, delayed well over a year and costing nearly 1 billion dollars, lifted off from Historic Launch Complex 39A at 10:19:43AM – much to the relief of the mission team.
Over the previous two days, weather had been a major concern at Kennedy Space Center, with high winds and heavy rain making a planned Thursday launch nearly impossible. The two side boosters returned for a pinpoint landing after liftoff, causing their characteristic triple sonic booms and reverberations off of the Vehicle Assembly Building. With launch complete, and a good health check from the mission team roughly an hour after launch, the historic mission to a metal world was well on its way.
Lindy Elkins-Tanton, the Principle Investigator for the Psyche mission, took to the platform formerly known as Twitter (now X) to share her excitement, and provided an update on the status of the spacecraft post launch. “Happy to report the spacecraft is healthy and initial checkout is underway (don’t hold your breath – it’s over 100 days long). I’m off to Pasadena to join the Psyche ops team.” The mission, delayed from last year after flight hardware issues, represents some of NASA’s forefront science, being selected alongside the Lucy mission to explore a variety of strange and diminutive worlds – unlocking the secrets of our solar system as we prepare to go back to the Moon and on to Mars
Following a successful liftoff of Psyche, SpaceX turned the range around in support of Starlink 6-22, which lifted off from LC-40 at 7:01 carrying 22 Next Gen Mini satellites. The mission represents some of the fastest turnaround for the Eastern Range since the early space age, beating out SBIRS-GEO-6 and KPLO, with Friday’s launches being just 8 hours and 41 minutes apart. The rapid turnaround of the range represents some of the infrastructure improvements implemented in support of the growth of the spaceport, which retains its slot as the world’s busiest.