2022 Mission to Asteroid With Nickel that Might Help Power 22nd Century

NASA plans to launch the Psyche mission to explore a metal-rock asteroid that is also called Psyche. The critical design review is done and construction has started. They plan to launch August 2022 on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy.

The asteroid Psyche is largely metallic iron and nickel. It is similar to Earth’s core and could have been a minor planet that lost its outer layers. Psyche is about 140 miles or 226 kilometers wide.

The $700 Quintillion (700 million trillion) value is based on today’s prices. Those prices would collapse if that much metal was brought back. Nickel is worth about $11,600 per ton in 2020. The world uses 2.3 million tons of nickel per year. This is a $25 billion per year market. Maybe we could use twenty times as much for $100 billion per year. Psyche has over 100 billion tons of nickel.

Electic cars use about 20-30 kilograms of nickel per module per car. A typical Tesla EV might have 14 modules. 350 kilograms of nickel per car. 100 million electric cars per year would need up to $500 billion per year of nickel. This would be if all new cars were electric. This would be 35 million tons of nickel. This could be triple if old cars were replaced faster and buses and trucks were electrified as well. There are currently 89 million tons in nickel reserves but there is plenty of nickel for new mines on earth if the demand is there. The Psyche nickel supply might come into play a century into an electrified global economy.

An electric vehicle (car, trucks, buses, planes) and electric storage for every building will require annual nickel supplies to scale up 100 times.

The Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) Chassis is being built at Maxar Technologies in Palo Alto, California, and should be done February 2021.

Psyche is set to launch in August 2022 and will fly by Mars for a gravity assist in May 2023 on its way to arrive at the asteroid in early 2026.

Psyche orbits the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter at a distance ranging from 235 million to 309 million miles (378 million to 497 million kilometers) from the Sun. That’s 2.5 to 3.3 Astronomical Units (AU), with 1 AU being the distance between Earth and the Sun.

The spacecraft will map and study 16 Psyche’s properties using a multispectral imager, a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer, a magnetometer, and a radio instrument (for gravity measurement) for 21 months or more.

SOURCES- NASA, Wikipedia
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com