A cussed photo voltaic array on the NASA Lucy mission would possibly yield sufficient to permit the mission to proceed its asteroid-hunting mandate with few points, NASA reviews.
The company mentioned it has made “vital progress” in coping with a photo voltaic array on the Lucy mission that failed to totally deploy after the spacecraft’s launch, which came about in October 2021. Engineers have been troubleshooting the matter for months.
Lucy has two near-circular photo voltaic arrays which are every 24 ft (7 meters) throughout and designed to unfold like a fan. The arrays are essential in offering energy to the mission, however one of many arrays confronted a difficulty in deployment. An replace in January said that on the time, the second array was a little lower than 350 levels deployed, on account of an situation with a lanyard.
On Thursday (June 28), nevertheless, NASA officers said the Lucy staff managed to get the array to between 353 levels and 357 levels open. (Full success could be 360 levels.)
“The array is underneath considerably extra rigidity, giving it considerably extra stabilization,” company officers added in a weblog publish (opens in new tab). “The mission staff is more and more assured the photo voltaic array will efficiently meet the mission’s wants in its present tensioned and stabilized state.”
Nonetheless, NASA should now pause its efforts to help Lucy as a result of the spacecraft is transferring right into a location the place it can not simply obtain instructions from its people again on Earth.
“On account of thermal constraints brought on by the relative positions of the Earth, spacecraft and solar, the spacecraft might be unable to speak with the Earth through its high-gain antenna for a number of months,” NASA officers wrote.
Whereas engineers can keep in touch with Lucy via a low-gain antenna, that transmitter can course of much less knowledge. Full communications ought to resume in October, in accordance with NASA. On Oct. 16, Lucy will fly by Earth to choose up velocity for its journey to 9 Trojan asteroids orbiting the solar on the identical distance as Jupiter; the spacecraft can even emerge from the partial blackout at the moment.
NASA could try to get that tough photo voltaic array additional deployed whereas the spacecraft stays close by “if deemed mandatory,” officers wrote within the publish.
Lucy efficiently accomplished a trajectory correction maneuver on June 21, NASA famous.
Though the spacecraft receives loads of energy whereas it’s close to Earth, the arrays will must be near full deployment to generate sufficient electrical energy on the orbit of Jupiter, the place daylight is way fainter. The big fuel large planet has a median orbital distance of 484 million miles (778 million kilometers) from the solar, roughly 5 instances extra distant than Earth is.
Lucy would be the first spacecraft to go to the Trojan asteroids of Jupiter, which orbit the solar forward of and behind the planet. These little worlds could maintain remnants of the early photo voltaic system and in flip, present details about how our neighborhood was shaped.