Repair to Malfunctioning Lucy Probe Good Sufficient to Full Asteroid Mission, NASA Says

Lucy’s Photo voltaic Powered Journey Continues

Lucy is tasked with an unprecedented mission to explore the Trojan asteroids, two teams of rocky our bodies that lead and observe Jupiter because it orbits the Solar. To be able to survive its lengthy journey via house, Lucy is supplied with two huge photo voltaic arrays on both aspect, every spanning 22-feet broad (7 meters). The arrays had been tucked in throughout Lucy’s preliminary journey to house on board an Atlas V rocket and designed to later unfurl like a pair of huge hand followers. Throughout deployment, nevertheless, considered one of Lucy’s solar arrays got stuck at 347 levels. Floor controllers apprehensive that the array can be additional broken when it got here time for the spacecraft to fireside its important engine.


Lucy’s anomaly response staff got here collectively inside hours of the malfunction, working collectively to give you a plan. “We’ve got an extremely gifted staff, however it was necessary to offer them time to determine what occurred and the best way to transfer ahead,” Hal Levison, Lucy’s principal investigator from Southwest Analysis Institute, stated in a statement. “Thankfully, the spacecraft was the place it was purported to be, functioning nominally, and—most significantly—secure. We had time.”

The staff brainstormed collectively for months and at last got here up with two potential options: Both hold the array at 347 levels or begin pulling on the array’s lanyard by utilizing the spacecraft’s backup motor. However staff members needed to first assess the dangers related to each choices and proceed accordingly. They constructed a duplicate of the backup motor and examined the duplicate past its restrict on the bottom to see how it could deal with the unfurling efforts in house.


Following months of running simulations, NASA decided that it would attempt to fully deploy Lucy’s arrays through a series of intricate maneuvers and commands sent over to the spacecraft while it was 60 million miles (96 million kilometers) away from Earth.

On May 9, mission control commanded Lucy to deploy the array, running its primary and backup motors simultaneously for a series of short intervals to avoid overheating. The team then paused to analyze the data before a second attempt on May 12, when the same commands were transmitted again. After seven trials of pulling the lanyard during the months of May and June, Lucy’s solar array is now between 353 degrees and 357 degrees open. “While the array is not fully latched, it is under substantially more tension, making it stable enough for the spacecraft to operate as needed for mission operations,” NASA wrote in a statement.


Lucy is gearing up for its first gravity assist in October 2022, where it will fly past Earth in order to use the planet’s gravity to pull on the spacecraft, thereby changing its orbital trajectory beyond the orbit of Mars. We’re rooting for you, Lucy. Even if your array is a few degrees off.

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