Space probe Psyche at the asteroid Psyche, artist's impression
This artist's-concept illustration depicts the spacecraft of NASA's Psyche mission near the mission's target, the metal asteroid Psyche. The artwork was created in May 2017 to show the five-panel solar arrays planned for the spacecraft. The spacecraft's structure will include power and propulsion systems to travel to, and orbit, the asteroid. These systems will combine solar power with electric propulsion to carry the scientific instruments used to study the asteroid through space. The mission plans launch in October 2023 and arrival at Psyche, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, in 2029. This selected asteroid is made almost entirely of nickel-iron metal. It offers evidence about violent collisions that created Earth and other terrestrial planets.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin


Psyche is a NASA discovery mission to the metallic asteroid (16) Psyche. The launch was delayed by NASA until October 2023. Arrival at the main belt asteroid is now planned for 2029. Psyche has a distance to the Sun of 2.91 au, a volume of 240 km × 185 km × 145 km and an average density of 4.5 g/cm³. Its density, radar reflections and thermal inertia suggest a high (approx. 40%) metal content. However, a spectral absorption at 0.9 μm also suggests a silicate component. Therefore, Psyche is believed to be the core of a previously differentiated asteroid that was destroyed by subsequent collisions. Psyche not only offers the possibility to examine an asteroid, but also allows a view into the interior of a planetary body. It is believed that Psyche can provide clues about the conditions during the first 100 million years of the formation and differentiation of a protoplanet.

Therefore, the most important scientific goals of the Psyche Mission are the investigation of the asteroid with regard to the evolution of the physical and astronomical conditions and processes from the beginning of the formation of the solar system, the investigation of the differentiation of planetesimals and the determination of the connections between asteroids and meteorites.

DLR's Institute of Planetary Research supports the mission in the planning and evaluation of stereo images and will create cartographic products such as mosaics and digital terrain models, which are required for a detailed study of Psyche. Among other things, the institute will enable, coordinate and perform the geological evaluation of the data. Our expertise in the geology of planetary surfaces and the processes that shape them is particularly noteworthy in the scientific analysis and is firmly integrated in the international Psyche Science Team.

In 2022 a number of overview publications were published in which we were involved.

Scientific Participation of the DLR Institute of Planetary Research

  • Planning and processing of the stereo-camera data
  • Analysis of geological surface composition