Lucy Spacecraft Unfurls Its Solar Panels Ahead of Launch
The two solar modules from Lucy, each 7.3 meters in diameter, were subjected to initial field tests in January 2021. In this photo, a Lockheed Martin Space technician in Denver, Colorado inspects one of Lucy’s arrays during its first deployment. These massive solar panels will power the Lucy spacecraft for its entire 12-year journey through space of 4 billion miles as it sets off to explore Jupiter’s elusive Trojan asteroids Lockheed Martin
Later that year, a NASA spacecraft named Lucy will launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a 12-year mission to visit the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars. It will visit seven asteroids, including six of the Trojans – asteroids that share Jupiter’s orbit – and it could help reveal how planets formed in the early solar system.
Now Lucy is preparing for the start in October. Prior to launch, Lucy used her solar panels in a series of solar array deployment tests. The panels are each 24 feet in diameter, although folded to a tiny 4 inches thick. The complexity of their deployment means that they cannot support their own weight. This is not a problem in the weightlessness of space, but it does pose a challenge here on Earth. In order to support the panels during the test, the engineers used a weight relief device to support them.
The tests were conducted by Lockheed Martin between December last year and February this year, and NASA has now confirmed that the tests were successful.
“The success of Lucy’s last test for the provision of solar systems was the end of a long development path. With dedication and great attention to detail, the team overcame every obstacle to prepare these solar modules, ”said Matt Cox, Lucy Program Manager at Lockheed Martin, in a statement. “Lucy will be farther from the sun than any other Discovery-class solar-powered mission, and one reason we can do this is because of the technology in these solar panels.”
After completing this test, the science team is confident that Lucy will be ready for his mission.
“About an hour after the spacecraft has launched, the solar panels must be properly deployed to ensure we have enough power to power the spacecraft for the entire mission,” said Principal Investigator Hal Levison of the Southwest Institute in Boulder. Colorado. “These 20 minutes will determine whether the rest of the 12 year mission will be a success. Marslanders have their seven minutes of terror, we have that. “