NASA’s Lucy Mission Prepares for Launch To Study “Fossils” of Planet Formation

Lucy Trojan Asteroid Mission

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Lucy will check out the Jupiter Trojan asteroids– believed to be “fossils of planet formation.” Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA has actually checked the functions of Lucy, the company’s very first spacecraft to research study Jupiter‘s Trojan asteroids, filled it with fuel, and is preparing to load it into a pill for launch Saturday, October 16, 2021.

Named after characters in Greek folklore, these asteroids circle the Sun in 2 swarms, with one group leading ahead of Jupiter in its course, the other routing behind it. Lucy will be the very first spacecraft to go to these asteroids. By studying these asteroids up close, researchers intend to refine their theories on how our planetary system’s worlds formed 4.5 billion years back and why they wound up in their existing setup.

“With Lucy, we’re going to eight never-before-seen asteroids in 12 years with a single spacecraft,” stated Tom Statler, Lucy task researcher at NASA Headquarters inWashington “This is a fantastic opportunity for discovery as we probe into our solar system’s distant past.”

Following all pandemic procedures, Lucy employee have actually invested the previous 8 weeks at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, preparing the spacecraft for flight. Engineers have actually checked the spacecraft’s mechanical, electrical, and thermal systems and practiced carrying out the launch series from the objective operations focuses at Kennedy and Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton,Colorado In early August, engineers set up the spacecraft’s high-gain antenna, its 2nd most popular function after the extensive solar selections, which will permit the spacecraft to interact with Earth.

ULA Centaur Stage for NASA’s Lucy Mission

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Centaur phase for NASA’s Lucy objective is raised by crane into the Vertical Integration Facility near Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Thursday,Sept 16,2021 The Lucy spacecraft is set up to release no earlier than Saturday,Oct 16, on a ULA Atlas V 401 rocket from Pad41 NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy Space Center is handling the launch. Over its 12- year main objective, Lucy will check out a record-breaking variety of asteroids, zipping one asteroid in the planetary system’s primary belt and 7 Trojan asteroids. Additionally, Lucy’s course will circle back to Earth 3 times for gravity helps, making it the very first spacecraft ever to go back to the area of Earth from the external planetary system. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

“There has been a lot of hands-on work,” stated Donya Douglas-Bradshaw, Lucy task supervisor at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt,Maryland “This summer has gone by so fast; it’s hard to believe we’re nearly at launch.”

On September 18, propulsion engineers completed filling Lucy’s fuel tanks with around 1,600 pounds (725 kgs) of liquid hydrazine and liquid oxygen, that make up 40% of the mass of the spacecraft. The fuel will be utilized for exact maneuvers that will move Lucy to its asteroid locations on schedule, while the solar selections– each the width of a school bus– will charge the batteries that will power spacecraft instruments.

The Lucy spacecraft will quickly be loaded into the 2 halves of the launch automobile fairing, which will surround it like a clamshell. After the spacecraft is encapsulated, the Lucy group will have the ability to interact with it electrically through an “umbilical cord.”

“Launching a spacecraft is almost like sending a child off to college – you’ve done what can for them to get them ready for that next big step on their own,” stated Hal Levison, the primary private investigator of the Lucy objective, based at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

In early October, the encapsulated spacecraft will be carried to the Vehicle Integration Facility at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, where it will be “mated” with the United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket. The Atlas V will take off from Space Launch Complex41 The rocket will bring Lucy outside Earth’s environment to start the long journey to the Trojan asteroids.

A couple of days prior to launch, engineers will power up the Lucy spacecraft in preparation for the objective. This procedure will take about 20 minutes.

“The spacecraft will sit in launch configuration and the engineering team will continuously monitor its health and status to make sure Lucy is ready to go,” stated Jessica Lounsbury, the Lucy task systems engineer atGoddard “And then it’s launch day.”

Lucy’s very first launch effort is set up for 5: 34 a.m. EDT on October16 That day, the group will be “called to stations” at 1 a.m., which is when everybody is anticipated to reach objective control and other stations to keep an eye on the spacecraft and go through the complete launch countdown treatments. If weather condition or any other problems forbid a launch that day, the group will have extra launch chances starting the following day.

Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, is the house organization of the primary private investigator for the Lucy objective. Goddard supplies general objective management, systems engineering, and security and objective guarantee. Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado, constructed the spacecraft. Lucy is the 13 th objective in NASA’s DiscoveryProgram NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, handles the Discovery Program for the company’s Science Mission Directorate inWashington The launch is handled by NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy.

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