February 1, 2023

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

Lucy will be the first spacecraft to go to these asteroids. Following all pandemic protocols, Lucy team members have actually invested the previous 8 weeks at NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida, preparing the spacecraft for flight. The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Centaur phase for NASAs Lucy mission 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 arranged to introduce no earlier than Saturday, Oct. 16, on a ULA Atlas V 401 rocket from Pad 41. Lucys first launch effort is scheduled for 5:34 a.m. EDT on October 16.

Following all pandemic protocols, Lucy employee have spent the past 8 weeks at NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida, preparing the spacecraft for flight. Engineers have actually checked the spacecrafts mechanical, electrical, and thermal systems and practiced carrying out the launch sequence from the objective operations centers at Kennedy and Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado. In early August, engineers set up the spacecrafts high-gain antenna, its second most popular feature after the expansive solar selections, which will allow the spacecraft to communicate with Earth.
The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Centaur stage for NASAs Lucy mission 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 introduce no earlier than Saturday, Oct. 16, on a ULA Atlas V 401 rocket from Pad 41. NASAs Launch Services Program based at Kennedy Space Center is handling the launch. Over its 12-year primary mission, Lucy will check out a record-breaking variety of asteroids, flying by one asteroid in the solar systems primary belt and 7 Trojan asteroids. In addition, Lucys course will circle back to Earth three times for gravity helps, making it the very first spacecraft ever to go back to the vicinity of Earth from the outer solar system. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
” There has actually been a lot of hands-on work,” said Donya Douglas-Bradshaw, Lucy project supervisor at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This summer season has gone by so quick; its tough to think were almost at launch.”
On September 18, propulsion engineers ended up filling Lucys fuel tanks with around 1,600 pounds (725 kgs) of liquid hydrazine and liquid oxygen, which make up 40% of the mass of the spacecraft. The fuel will be utilized for accurate maneuvers that will move Lucy to its asteroid locations on schedule, while the solar selections– each the width of a school bus– will recharge the batteries that will power spacecraft instruments.
The Lucy spacecraft will soon be loaded into the 2 halves of the launch automobile fairing, which will close around it like a clamshell. After the spacecraft is encapsulated, the Lucy group will be able to communicate with it electrically through an “umbilical cable.”
” Launching a spacecraft is nearly like sending a kid off to college– youve done what can for them to get them prepared for that next huge action on their own,” stated Hal Levison, the principal private investigator of the Lucy objective, based at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
In early October, the encapsulated spacecraft will be transferred 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 lift off from Space Launch Complex 41. The rocket will carry Lucy outside Earths atmosphere to begin the long journey to the Trojan asteroids.
A few days prior to launch, engineers will power up the Lucy spacecraft in preparation for the objective. This process will take about 20 minutes.
” The spacecraft will sit in launch configuration and the engineering team will constantly monitor its health and status to make sure Lucy is prepared to go,” stated Jessica Lounsbury, the Lucy job systems engineer at Goddard. “And then its launch day.”
Lucys very first launch effort is set up for 5:34 a.m. EDT on October 16. That day, the team will be “contacted us to stations” at 1 a.m., which is when everyone is expected to arrive at objective control and other stations to monitor the spacecraft and run through the complete launch countdown procedures. The team will have additional launch opportunities beginning the following day if weather condition or any other concerns restrict a launch that day.
Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, is the home organization of the primary detective for the Lucy mission. Goddard provides general mission management, systems engineering, and security and objective assurance. Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado, built the spacecraft. Lucy is the 13th objective in NASAs Discovery Program. NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, handles the Discovery Program for the firms Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The launch is handled by NASAs Launch Services Program based at Kennedy.

Lucy will check out the Jupiter Trojan asteroids– thought to be “fossils of planet formation.” Credit: NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center
NASA has actually evaluated the functions of Lucy, the companys first spacecraft to study Jupiters Trojan asteroids, filled it with fuel, and is preparing to load it into a capsule for launch Saturday, October 16, 2021.
Called 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 tracking behind it. Lucy will be the very first spacecraft to go to these asteroids. By studying these asteroids up close, researchers hope to sharpen their theories on how our planetary systems worlds formed 4.5 billion years earlier and why they ended up in their present setup.
” With Lucy, were going to 8 never-before-seen asteroids in 12 years with a single spacecraft,” said Tom Statler, Lucy project researcher at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This is a great chance for discovery as we probe into our solar systems distant past.”

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