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SpaceX to orbit NASA's Psyche spacecraft that will reach asteroid in 2029 - TWIRL #133

The TWIRL logo in front of Falcon Heavy

We have an interesting schedule This Week in Rocket Launches as SpaceX will be launching a Falcon Heavy carrying NASA’s Psyche mission. By 2029, the NASA spacecraft will reach an asteroid called Psyche which is metal-rich. This is the first time that NASA will go to an asteroid with this composition so some discoveries could be made.

Sunday, 8 October

  • Who: Arianespace
  • What: Vega
  • When: 1:36 a.m. UTC
  • Where: French Guiana
  • Why: Arianespace will be launching a Vega rocket carrying 12 satellites including THEOS 2, Triton, and ProbaV-CC to orbit. Of these, THEOS 2 is the main payload; it was built by Airbus Defense for Thailand and it will complement THEOS 1 which was launched in 2008. It is an Earth observation satellite.

Monday, 9 October

  • Who: SpaceX
  • What: Falcon 9 B5
  • When: 12:37 a.m. - 5:07 a.m. UTC
  • Where: Space Launch Complex 40, Cape Canaveral, Florida, US
  • Why: SpaceX is launching 2 Starlink mini satellites into a low-Earth orbit where they will provide internet connectivity to customers on Earth. The satellites being launched this time are known as Starlink Group 6-22 - this identifier can be used on various satellite-spotting apps to find these exact satellites that are being launched.

  • Who: SpaceX
  • What: Falcon 9 B5
  • When: 7:13 a.m - 11:25 a.m. UTC
  • Where: Vandenberg AFB, California, US
  • Why: SpaceX regularly performs numerous Starlink launches each week but it’s a little less common to see two launches on one day. Well, that’s what is happening this week. In both cases, the satellites will be covered in anti-reflective coatings to have less impact on astronomy.

Thursday, 12 October

  • Who: SpaceX
  • What: Falcon Heavy
  • When: 2:16 p.m. UTC
  • Where: SpaceX LC-39A, Florida, US
  • Why: SpaceX will be launching a mission for NASA called Psyche. The spacecraft will head to an asteroid called Psyche and enter orbit with the body in 2029. Apparently, Psyche is the first craft to explore a metal-rich asteroid so there could be some interesting discoveries to be made. If you decide to tune in to the launch of SpaceX’s website, look out for the Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters performing a landing.


  • The first launch we got this week was a Long March 2D rocket carrying the third Yaogan-39 mission from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in China. It is a remote sensing satellite used for observing the Earth.
  • Next, we got the launch of a Falcon 9 carrying Starlink satellites to space to beam internet to the Earth. The first stage of the rocket also landed.
  • This week, Amazon’s Project Kuiper got off the ground after United Launch Alliance launched some prototype satellites on an Atlas V rocket.
  • Next, we got another commercial launch from Virgin Galactic which carried passengers to the edge of space where they could experience microgravity.
  • Finally, PLD Space launched the MIURA 1 suborbital launch vehicle on its first test flight. PLD Space is a Spanish company that is developing reusable rockets to orbit commercial satellites.

That’s all for this week, be sure to check in next time!

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