NASA’s First Mission to Explore the Trojan Asteroids Passes Critical Milestone

Lucy Spacecraft at Trojan Asteroid

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Artist’s idea of Lucy spacecraft at Trojan asteroid. Credit: NASA

NASA’s very first objective to check out the Trojan asteroids is one action more detailed to introduce. The Discovery Program’s Lucy objective passed a crucial turning point and is formally licensed to shift to its next stage.

This significant choice was made after a series of independent evaluations of the status of the spacecraft, instruments, schedule, and spending plan. The turning point, called Key Decision Point-D (KDP-D), represents the main shift from the objective’s advancement phase to shipment of elements, screening, assembly, and combination resulting in launch. During this part of the objective’s life process, called Phase D, the spacecraft bus (the structure that will bring the science instruments) is finished, the instruments are incorporated into the spacecraft and checked, and the spacecraft is delivered to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for combination with the launch car.

“Each phase of the mission is more exciting than the last,” states Lucy Principal Investigator Hal Levison of Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO. “While, of course, Lucy still has several years and a few billion miles to go before we reach our real goal – exploring the never-before-seen Trojan asteroids – seeing this spacecraft come together is just incredible.”

Lucy's Oxygen Propellant Tank

Engineers set up Lucy’s oxygen propellant tank into the spacecraft structure in a high-bay tidy space at Lockheed Martin. Credit: Lockheed Martin Space

Assembly, Testing and Launch Operations (ATLO) started on schedule recently at Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado, in spite of numerous unanticipated obstacles connected to the coronavirus pandemic. The schedule was modified to permit later on combination of elements that were postponed due to COVID-19 limitations.

“This team has been truly incredible,” states Lucy Project Manager Donya Douglas-Bradshaw, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Building a spacecraft is never easy, but seeing the team persevere through all of the challenges that they have encountered is inspiring. We now have a spacecraft structure in the Lockheed Martin high bay and a team ready to install the instruments and components.”

The oxidizer tank has actually currently been incorporated with the spacecraft, and the instrument combination begins in October. All spacecraft assembly and screening will be finished by the end of July 2021, when the spacecraft will be delivered to Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida in preparation for the launch window opening on October 16, 2021. After launch, Lucy will have a long cruise stage prior to it reaches its very first target. Lucy is flying out to the range of Jupiter to make close fly-bys past a record-breaking variety of asteroids, experiencing the very first of 8 targets in April 2025 and the last binary set of asteroids in March 2033.

The next significant turning point is the Mission Operation Review, set up in October 2020, which examines the task’s functional preparedness and its development towards launch.

Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, is the primary detective organization for Lucy. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland supplies general objective management, systems engineering, and security and objective guarantee. Lockheed Martin Space near Denver is developing the spacecraft and will carry out spacecraft flight operations. Instruments will be supplied by Goddard, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, and Arizona State University.

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