Launch of a robotic space craft to a unique metal asteroid 'Psyche' in the year 2022 has been announced recently by NASA.
The launch will take place a year ahead of the original schedule.
According to US space aaagency the mission will now take a more efficient trajectory to arrive at the main belt asteroid in 2026, four years earlier than planned.
Psyche, an asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter, is made almost entirely of nickel-iron metal.
It offers a unique look into the violent collisions that created Earth and the terrestrial planets, researchers said.
"We challenged the mission design team to explore if an earlier launch date could provide a more efficient trajectory to the asteroid Psyche, and they came through in a big way," said Jim Green, from the NASA Head quarters in the US.
"This will enable us to fulfil our science objectives sooner and at a reduced cost," Green added further.
The Discovery Mission programme - a series of lower-cost, highly focused robotic space missions that are exploring the solar system - had directed teams to propose missions for launch in either 2021 or 2023.
The Lucy mission - which will study a population of primitive asteroids called Trojans orbiting with Jupiter - was selected for the first launch opportunity in 2021, and Psyche was to follow in 2023.
Shortly after selection in January, NASA gave the direction to the Psyche team to research earlier opportunities.
Researchers designed a new, efficient trajectory that does away with the need for assistance of the Earth's gravity and shortens the cruise time.
In addition, the new trajectory stays farther from theSun, reducing the amount of heat protection needed for the spacecraft.
"The biggest advantage is the excellent trajectory, which gets us there about twice as fast and is more cost effective," said Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of ArizonaState University in Tempe.
The Psyche spacecraft is being built by Space SystemsLoral (SSL) in the US.
In order to support the new mission trajectory, SSL redesigned the solar array system from a four-panel array in astraight row on either side of the spacecraft to a morepowerful five-panel X-shaped design, commonly used for missions requiring more capability.
Much like a sports car, by combining a relatively small spacecraft body with a very high-power solar array design, the Psyche spacecraft will speed to its destination at a faster pace than is typical for a larger spacecraft.
"By increasing the size of the solar arrays, the spacecraft will have the power it needs to support the highervelocity requirements of the updated mission," said SSL PsycheProgram Manager Steve Scott.
The goals of the Psyche mission are to understand the building blocks of planet formation and explore first hand awholly new and unexplored type of world.
Scientists seek to determine whether Psyche is the coreof an early planet, how old it is, whether it formed insimilar ways to Earth's core, and what its surface is like.