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Maxar delivers spacecraft bus for NASA’s Psyche mission

(29 March 2021 - Maxar) Maxar Technologies today announced the delivery of the Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) Chassis to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for the NASA Discovery Mission, Psyche.

The SEP Chassis is based on Maxar’s 1300-class platform, the world’s most trusted spacecraft, which provided NASA the opportunity to budget, design and build the historic Psyche mission on flight-proven, commercially developed hardware.

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Maxar engineers prepare the Psyche spacecraft bus for transport to NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. (courtesy: Maxar)

The NASA Psyche mission is expected to launch in August 2022 to explore an asteroid orbiting between Mars and Jupiter, which is likely made largely of metal and may be core material from an early planet. The Psyche spacecraft will travel more than 1 billion miles and arrive at the asteroid in 2026, where it will spend 21 months orbiting the 140 mile-wide asteroid, mapping it and studying its properties.

The SEP Chassis built for Psyche is Maxar’s lightest and smallest graphite 1300-class spacecraft platform, roughly the size of a small car. It is combined with a medium-sized solar array, a high-gain antenna and Maxar’s latest solar electric propulsion system. The spacecraft has been specifically designed to function in a low-power environment because of the Psyche asteroid’s distance from the sun.

“This mission is a dream come true. Maxar developed the world’s most advanced solar electric propulsion capabilities to reduce program costs and enable long-duration missions for commercial communications satellites,” said Robert Curbeam, Maxar’s Senior Vice President of Space Capture. "We are excited to leverage this technology for a NASA deep space exploration mission and see great promise for adapting it to support a range of critical government space missions in the future.”

Maxar was selected in 2017 to provide the spacecraft platform for the Psyche mission under a firm-fixed-price contract and has now delivered all hardware on schedule. The company is working for NASA JPL to support the mission’s Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton, who is a professor at Arizona State University’s (ASU) School of Earth and Space Exploration.

“Seeing this big spacecraft chassis arrive at JPL from Maxar is among the most thrilling of the milestones we’ve experienced on what has already been a 10-year journey,” said Elkins-Tanton. “Building this complex, precision piece of engineering during the year of COVID is absolutely a triumph of human determination and excellence.”

“The collaboration between the teams at Maxar, ASU and NASA’s JPL has been astounding,” said Curbeam. “Each organization brought their expertise to the program, blending philosophies of commercial, government and academic institutions to come together for one mission—to travel to an asteroid to better understand Earth.”

In addition to Psyche, Maxar is also leveraging both its 1300-class platform and SEP technology for the NASA Gateway Power and Propulsion Element under the Artemis Program. The 1300-class platform has also been selected for NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center’s OSAM-1 mission and will host NASA’s Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) instrument.

About Maxar

Maxar is a trusted partner and innovator in Earth Intelligence and Space Infrastructure. We deliver disruptive value to government and commercial customers to help them monitor, understand and navigate our changing planet; deliver global broadband communications; and explore and advance the use of space. Our unique approach combines decades of deep mission understanding and a proven commercial and defense foundation to deploy solutions and deliver insights with unrivaled speed, scale and cost effectiveness. Maxar’s 4,300 team members in over 20 global locations are inspired to harness the potential of space to help our customers create a better world. Maxar trades on the New York Stock Exchange and Toronto Stock Exchange as MAXR.