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SpaceX’s powerful Falcon Heavy rocket successfully launched on Friday morning, carrying a NASA mission bound for a distant asteroid.
Targeting the asteroid Psyche, the eponymous NASA mission is flying a spacecraft — about the width of a tennis court — on a journey of almost six years and about 2.2 billion miles, arriving at the planetary body in July 2029.
The launch took off at 10:19 a.m. ET from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
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NASA wants to study the composition of the asteroid, which the agency describes as “an unusual object likely rich in metal.” The Psyche spacecraft is armed with a variety of scientific tools, such as instruments for studying the asteroid’s magnetic field and chemical makeup.
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket with the Psyche spacecraft launches from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on October 13, 2023.
Chandan Khanna | AFP | Getty Images
The agency expects to spend about $1.2 billion on the Psyche mission, including the costs of development and operations. Of that total cost, NASA awarded SpaceX a contract of about $131 million to launch the mission.
The mission marks SpaceX’s eighth launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket, the company’s most powerful in operation. It landed the rocket’s pair of side boosters, to recover and reuse them for future launches.