From May 6 to June 16, NASA’s Lucy mission team carried out a multi-stage effort intended to further deploy the spacecraft’s unlatched solar array. The team commanded the spacecraft to operate the array’s deployment motor for limited periods of time, allowing them to closely monitor the response of the spacecraft. As a result of this effort, the mission succeeded in further deploying the array and now estimates that the solar array is between 353 degrees and 357 degrees open (out of 360 total degrees for a fully deployed array). Additionally, the array is under substantially more tension, giving it significantly more stabilization. The mission team is increasingly confident the solar array will successfully meet the mission’s needs in its current tensioned and stabilized state.
Further deployment attempts will be paused as the Lucy spacecraft enters a planned period of limited communications. Due to thermal constraints caused by the relative positions of the Earth, spacecraft, and Sun, the spacecraft will be unable to communicate with the Earth via its high-gain antenna for several months. Throughout this period, the spacecraft will remain in contact with Lucy’s ground team via its low-gain antenna. The spacecraft will emerge from this partial communications blackout after its Earth gravity assist maneuver on Oct 16. At that time, the mission team will have more opportunities to attempt further deployment efforts if deemed necessary.
On June 21, the spacecraft successfully carried out a trajectory correction maneuver, which is the second in a series of maneuvers to prepare the spacecraft for its Earth flyby.
GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Lucy mission team is in the midst of a multi-stage effort to further deploy the spacecraft’s unlatched solar array. On May 9, the team commanded the spacecraft to operate the array’s deployment motor using both the primary and back-up motor windings simultaneously to generate more torque, i.e. a harder pull. The motor operated as expected, further reeling in the lanyard that pulls the solar array open. After running the motor for a series of short intervals to avoid overheating, the team paused to analyze the results. Data from the spacecraft showed that the deployment was proceeding similarly to engineering ground tests, allowing the team to move forward with the second stage of the attempt. Analysis of the data also suggested that there was still additional lanyard to be retracted. The team sent the same commands again on May 12. Although this series of commands did not latch the solar array fully open, it did advance the deployment enough to increase the tension that stabilizes the arrays as was hoped.
GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — On April 18, NASA decided to move forward with plans to complete the deployment of the Lucy spacecraft’s stalled, unlatched solar array. The spacecraft is powered by two large arrays of solar cells that were designed to unfold and latch into place after launch. One of the fan-like arrays opened as planned, but the other stopped just short of completing this operation.
The Lucy spacecraft, launched on Oct. 16, 2021, is now over 30 million miles, or 48 million kilometers, from Earth and continues to operate safely in “outbound cruise” mode. Besides a solar array that didn’t latch after deployment — an issue the mission team is working to resolve— all spacecraft systems are normal. The arrays are producing ample energy, charging the spacecraft’s battery as expected under normal operating conditions.
The current plan supports a latch attempt in the late April timeframe; however, the team is continuing to study the possibility of leaving the array as is. In the meantime, in the lab, they are testing a dual motor solar array deployment using both the primary and backup motor. The testing aims to determine if engaging both motors at the same time applies enough force to complete the deployment and latch the solar array.
In addition to the solar array activity, the team continues to run routine operations on the spacecraft. The next activity is calibrating guidance, navigation & control hardware to ensure pointing accuracy of the spacecraft.
On January 5, Lucy completed a test to look at the dynamics of the spacecraft in order to characterize the solar array.
After successful separation from the rocket on Oct. 16, NASA’s Lucy spacecraft deployed both solar arrays. Soon after deployment, NASA received confirmation that one of the solar arrays was fully deployed and latched. Analysis currently shows the second solar array is partially unfurled. The team continues to look at all available engineering data to establish how far it is deployed. That solar array is generating nearly the expected power when compared to the fully deployed wing. This power level is enough to keep the spacecraft healthy and functioning.
The Lucy spacecraft has remained in safe mode and is transitioning to cruise mode today. This mode has increased autonomy and spacecraft configuration changes, which is necessary as Lucy moves away from Earth. The team continues its assessment and an attempt to fully deploy the solar array is planned no earlier than the end of next week.
Lucy has successfully fired thrusters to slew the spacecraft with the current array configuration and will safely continue with desaturation maneuvers — small thruster firings to manage the spacecraft’s momentum — as planned.
The operations team has temporarily postponed the deployment of the instrument pointing platform to focus on resolving solar array deployment. The operations team continues to execute all other planned post-launch activities. The ULA Atlas V rocket delivered Lucy precisely to the target point at separation, and so a backup maneuver called the Trajectory Correction Maneuver (TCM-1) is unnecessary and has therefore been canceled. The first maneuver will now be what’s known as TCM-2, currently scheduled for mid-December.
The project is evaluating whether there are any long-term implications to other scheduled activities.
GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Following a successful launch on Oct. 16, 2021, analysis of NASA’s Lucy spacecraft systems show the spacecraft is operating well and is stable. Lucy’s two solar arrays have deployed, and both are producing power and the battery is charging. While one of the arrays has latched, indications are that the second array may not be fully latched. All other subsystems are normal. In the current spacecraft attitude, Lucy can continue to operate with no threat to its health and safety. The team is analyzing spacecraft data to understand the situation and determine next steps to achieve full deployment of the solar array.
Editor’s Note: The main question appears to be how the situation might affect thruster firings on the spacecraft, which is due to explore one main-belt asteroid and seven Trojan asteroids during its 12-year mission.
CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Lucy mission, the agency’s first to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, launched at 5:34 a.m. EDT Saturday on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla.,Oct. 13, 2021 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is in final preparations to launch the Lucy mission for NASA. The launch is on track for Oct. 16 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Launch is planned for 5:34 a.m. EDT. The live launch broadcast begins at 5 a.m. EDT on Oct. 16 at www.ulalaunch.com.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA will provide coverage of upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for Lucy, the agency’s first mission to explore the Jupiter Trojan asteroids.
Lucy is scheduled to launch no earlier than 5:34 a.m. EDT Saturday, Oct. 16, on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has tested the functions of Lucy, the agency’s first spacecraft to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, filled it with fuel, and is preparing to pack it into a capsule for launch Saturday, Oct. 16.
Named after characters in Greek mythology, these asteroids circle the Sun in two swarms, with one group leading ahead of Jupiter in its path, the other trailing behind it. Lucy will be the first spacecraft to visit these asteroids. By studying these asteroids up close, scientists hope to hone their theories on how our solar system’s planets formed 4.5 billion years ago and why they ended up in their current configuration.
GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Time capsules from the birth of our Solar System more than 4 billion years ago, the swarms of Trojan asteroids associated with Jupiter are thought to be remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets. The Trojans orbit the Sun in two loose groups, with one group leading ahead of Jupiter in its path, the other trailing behind.
NASA’s first spacecraft to explore the Trojan asteroids arrived Friday, July 30, at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. It is now in a cleanroom at nearby Astrotech, ready to begin final preparations for its October launch.
The mission has a 23-day launch period beginning on October 16. Lucy will undergo final testing and fueling prior to being moved to its launch pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
NASA FACT SHEET FY 2022 Budget Request Science ($ Millions)
NASA’s Science budget, managed by the Science Mission Directorate, includes five major science areas as well as the James Webb Space Telescope which is funded separately from Astrophysics. These areas include:
Earth Science to enhance understanding of Earth systems and to observe the effects of climate change. The Budget invests heavily in climate and applications research, begins formulation of the first four Designated Observable missions, and initiates the Earth System Explorers program (consistent with Decadal Survey recommendations). The Budget also supports the ongoing development of the Earth System Observatory including PACE, CLARREO Pathfinder, NISAR, SWOT, and Landsat 9.
GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Twenty-seven asteroids have been named in honor of African American, Hispanic, and Native American astronauts, and one cosmonaut, who have helped expand our horizons beyond Earth and to inspire the next generation of space explorers.