NASA's Psyche mission to an unexplored metal world comes to a halt

An artist's illustration depicts the Psyche spacecraft in deep space, showcasing its five-panel solar arrays.

(CNN)NASA's first spacecraft designed to study a metallic asteroid won't be launching this year as planned, according to an announcement made by the agency on Friday.

The Psyche mission's 2022 launch window, which opened on August 1 and closes on October 11, will come to an end before the spacecraft's flight software is ready. A delay in delivering the software and its testing equipment has prevented the Psyche team from having enough time for testing prior to launch.
Engineers want to be absolutely sure that the software will function as expected once the spacecraft is in flight.
    Used to control the spacecraft's orientation as it flies through space, guidance and navigation software help point its antenna toward Earth for communications and relaying data. The software also provides the spacecraft's propulsion system with trajectory information.
      During testing at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, engineers discovered a compatibility issue in the software's test bed simulators. The issue has since been corrected, but there isn't enough time for a full checkout and launch in 2022.
      The space agency will form an independent assessment team to review the mission and determine a path forward, including estimated costs and potential launch opportunities in 2023 and 2024. The Psyche spacecraft is currently housed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
      Engineers prepare the Psyche spacecraft inside a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, on April 11.
      "Flying to a distant metal-rich asteroid, using Mars for a gravity assist on the way there, takes incredible precision. We must get it right. Hundreds of people have put remarkable effort into Psyche during this pandemic, and the work will continue as the complex flight software is thoroughly tested and assessed," said JPL Director Laurie Leshin. "The decision to delay the launch wasn't easy, but it is the right one."
        Timing for the mission makes things difficult moving forward. A 2022 launch would have delivered the spacecraft to the asteroid, also known as Psyche, by 2026. But launch periods in the coming years mean that the spacecraft would arrive much later due to different orbital positions, such as 2029 or 2030.