Psyche: Journey to a Metal World

Peter Lord, Scott Tilley, David Y. Oh, Dan Goebel, Carol Polanskey, Steve Snyder, Greg Carr, Steven M. Collins, Gregory Lantoine, Damon Landau, Linda Elkins-Tanton

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

13 Scopus citations


In September 2015, NASA selected five mission concepts from a field of 27 to proceed to the next stage (step 2) of the latest Discovery mission competition. Each team submitted a Mission Concept Study to NASA in August 2016, and in January of 2017 NASA selected Psyche and a second mission for flight. This paper describes Psyche, a unique investigation of a metal world, which is the only one of the original five mission concepts studied in detail to propose the use of Electric Propulsion (EP) to accomplish its mission objectives. Psyche will harness commercially developed EP and space power systems with strong system-level heritage to accomplish a deep space NASA science mission at comparatively low technical-risk and cost-risk. This paper describes the Psyche mission concept and the unique Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) architecture that allows the use of SSL's commercial SPT-140 Hall thruster propulsion system at solar distances of up to 3.3 AU with only minimal modifications. Building on previous work analyzing SEP systems for Discovery-class missions, this paper describes the heritage, design, and testing which have been conducted on the power and propulsion systems to develop the Psyche mission, addresses the differences between GEO and deep-space environments, and describes actions taken to ensure that GEO heritage systems can be operated reliably in deep-space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2017 IEEE Aerospace Conference
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
ISBN (Electronic)9781509016136
StatePublished - Jun 7 2017
Event2017 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2017 - Big Sky, United States
Duration: Mar 4 2017Mar 11 2017

Publication series

NameIEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Print)1095-323X


Other2017 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityBig Sky

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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