NASA’s Lucy asteroid probe settles into Earth-orbiting cruise as engineers sort out photo voltaic array glitch

NASA’s Lucy asteroid probe settles into Earth-orbiting cruise as engineers sort out photo voltaic array glitch

An artist's depiction of Lucy's solar arrays in the process of deploying.

An artist’s depiction of Lucy’s photo voltaic arrays within the capability of deploying.
(Image credit ranking: NASA’s Goddard Home Flight Heart Conceptual Image Lab)

Days after NASA’s recent mission to a mysterious neighborhood of asteroids launched, spacecraft personnel proceed battling a problem with one in all the automobile’s two huge photo voltaic arrays.

The Lucy spacecraft is designed to wing by eight assorted asteroids, most of them Trojans that circle the solar within the same orbit as Jupiter however sooner than or within the serve of the extensive planet. To full that assignment, this can depend on two photo voltaic arrays, every extra than 24 feet (7 meters) all over. Nonetheless when the spacecraft deployed the arrays after launch on Saturday (Oct. 16), totally one regarded as if it would occupy wisely latched.

Since then, mission personnel occupy been working concurrently to assess the 2d photo voltaic array and to full the unrelated projects Lucy desires to enact at this level in its inch. In an announcement launched Tuesday (Oct. 19), NASA officers emphasised that the spacecraft can proceed working with the photo voltaic arrays as they’re presently deployed and that the glitch is now no longer the dwell of the avenue for Lucy’s mission.

Linked: Meet the 8 asteroids NASA’s Lucy spacecraft will search the advice of with

“The group continues its overview and an strive to totally deploy the photo voltaic array is planned no earlier than the dwell of next week,” NASA officers wrote within the assertion.

Engineers knew all along that the deployment assignment, which started about an hour after launch and took about 20 minutes to full, might likely perhaps be now no longer easy.

“At some level of deployment, there are thousands of little petite mechanisms and flexures that are deploying those wings luxuriate in a Chinese fan,” Katie Oakman, Lucy structures and mechanisms lead at Lockheed Martin Home, which built the spacecraft, said Thursday (Oct. 14) at some level of a prelaunch news convention.

And it appears to be like on one photo voltaic array, one in all those steps didn’t rather proceed to thought. “Diagnosis presently reveals the 2d photo voltaic array is partially unfurled,” NASA officers wrote within the assertion.

Nonetheless, mission personnel are peaceful working to discover precisely how birth the harsh array is. “The group continues to test in any admire accessible engineering files to build how far it’s far deployed,” the assertion continues. “That photo voltaic array is generating virtually the anticipated energy when when when put next with the totally deployed wing. This energy degree is enough to withhold the spacecraft healthy and functioning.”

That is now no longer stunning, since Lucy’s arrays are designed to energy the spacecraft on noteworthy much less sunlight than or now no longer it’s presently receiving. At Jupiter’s orbital distance from our superstar, the daylight hours is ready 25 times weaker than what we expertise near Earth, in step with NASA.

“When we’re near Earth, those wings occupy about 18,000 watts of energy, so that will most likely be corresponding to powering up my house and a pair of my neighbors,” Oakman said at some level of the news convention. “Nonetheless, when we wing out to the Jupiter Trojan asteroids, we totally occupy about 500 watts of energy, so that will totally gentle about a lightbulbs in my living room and it wouldn’t be enough to energy up my microwave within the morning to warm up my coffee.”

She also illustrious that the instruments on Lucy can ranking files at some level of its flybys while the expend of just 82 watts of energy.

As the mission group continues to advise the deliver of the 2d photo voltaic array, engineers are working on other put up-launch projects as effectively.

The spacecraft entered cruise mode on Tuesday to present Lucy critical “elevated autonomy and spacecraft configuration changes,” in step with the launch. The spacecraft will most likely be the expend of its thrusters to create slight adjustments to its momentum.

And in a victory for the mission, the group sure that a backup trajectory correction maneuver is now no longer critical, because the spacecraft is precisely where it desires to be, letting the group wait except mid-December for the first such maneuver.

In a concession to the photo voltaic array grief, nonetheless, the spacecraft has now no longer but deployed its instrument pointing platform, which had been scheduled to happen about two days after launch.

The Lucy group is now unsure but whether the incident can occupy “any long-duration of time implications to other scheduled actions,” the assertion notes.

E mail Meghan Bartels at [email protected] or discover her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Apply us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Fb.

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Meghan Bartels

Meghan is a senior creator at and has extra than 5 years’ expertise as a science journalist based totally totally in New York City. She joined in July 2018, with outdated writing published in retailers including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York College and a BA in classics from Georgetown College, and in her free time she enjoys studying and visiting museums. Apply her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.

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