April 2, 2023

NASA Troubleshoots Asteroid-Bound Lucy Spacecraft From Millions of Miles Away

The discussion was quiet, it was extreme. At one end of the space, an engineer sat with furrowed brow, folding and unfolding a paper plate in the same way that Lucys massive circular solar varieties run.
Was the range open at all? Without a totally deployed selection, would Lucy be able to securely carry out the maneuvers needed to achieve its science objective?
Due to the fact that Lucy was currently speeding on its way through space, the stakes were exceptionally high.
Lucy made a picture-perfect launch on October 16, 2021, however when the spacecraft began to unfurl its solar arrays, it came across an anomaly. For months, Lucys flight operations group worked thoroughly to address the issue and put Lucy back on its solar-powered journey to the Jupiter Trojans.
Within hours, NASA pulled together Lucys abnormality action team, that included members from science mission lead Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Austin, Texas; mission operations lead NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; spacecraft builder Lockheed Martin; and Northrop Grumman in San Diego, solar selection system designer and builder.
” This is a gifted group, securely dedicated to the success of Lucy,” stated Donya Douglas-Bradshaw, former Lucy project manager from NASA Goddard. “They have the very same grit and dedication that got us to an effective launch throughout an once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.”
United in their pursuit to make sure Lucy would reach its max capacity, the group began an exhaustive deep dive to identify the reason for the problem and establish the finest course forward.
Considered that the spacecraft was otherwise completely healthy, the team wasnt rushing into anything.
” We have an exceptionally skilled team, but it was very important to provide them time to figure out what took place and how to move on,” said Hal Levison, Lucys primary private investigator from SwRI. “Fortunately, the spacecraft was where it was expected to be, functioning nominally, and– most notably– safe. We had time.”
In this image, a professional at Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado, inspects one of Lucys selections during its first implementation. These huge solar ranges will power the Lucy spacecraft throughout its entire 4-billion-mile, 12-year journey through area as it heads out to check out Jupiters evasive Trojan asteroids.
Staying focused throughout lots of long days and nights, the group overcame alternatives. To evaluate Lucys solar range configuration in real-time, the team fired thrusters on the spacecraft and gathered data on how those forces made the solar array vibrate. Next, they fed the data into a comprehensive design of the ranges motor assembly to presume how rigid Lucys selection was– which assisted reveal the source of the problem.
At last, they closed in on the root cause: a lanyard developed to pull Lucys enormous solar range open was most likely snarled on its bobbin-like spindle.
After months of further brainstorming and testing, Lucys group settled on 2 potential courses forward.
In one, they would pull harder on the lanyard by running the varietys backup deployment motor at the exact same time as its main motor. The power from two motors need to enable the jammed lanyard to wind in additional and engage the varietys locking system. While both motors were never ever initially planned to run at the same time, the group utilized models to guarantee the idea would work.
The 2nd choice: utilize the range as it was– almost completely deployed and creating more than 90% of its expected power.
Shortly after Lucy introduced, among its solar arrays stopped working to totally release, putting the mission at risk. This artists principle animation depicts Lucys solar range anomaly.
” Each course brought some aspect of threat to achieve the standard science goals,” said Barry Noakes, Lockheed Martins deep space expedition chief engineer. “A huge part of our effort was determining proactive actions that reduce risk in either scenario.”
The team mapped out and evaluated possible outcomes for both options. They evaluated hours of the selections test video footage, constructed a ground-based replica of the varietys motor assembly, and tested the reproduction past its limits to better comprehend threats of additional implementation attempts. They also developed special, high-fidelity software to simulate Lucy in space and gauge any potential ripple effects a redeployment effort could have on the spacecraft.
“The cooperation and teamwork with the mission partners was sensational,” stated Frank Bernas, vice president, space components and tactical companies at Northrop Grumman.
After months of simulations and testing, NASA decided to move forward with the first choice– a multi-step attempt to totally redeploy the solar range. On 7 celebrations in May and June, the group commanded the spacecraft to at the same time run the backup and main solar array implementation motors. The effort prospered, drawing in the lanyard, and additional opening and tensioning the selection.
The mission now approximates that Lucys solar variety is between 353 degrees and 357 degrees open (out of 360 total degrees for a totally deployed range). While the range is not completely latched, it is under substantially more tension, making it steady enough for the spacecraft to operate as needed for objective operations.
The spacecraft is now prepared and able to complete the next big objective milestone– an Earth-gravity help in October 2022. Lucy is scheduled to get here at its very first asteroid target in 2025.

Soon after Lucy launched, one of its solar ranges stopped working to fully deploy, putting the mission at threat. This artists principle animation depicts Lucys solar range anomaly. Credit: NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab
Just after the successful launch of NASAs Lucy spacecraft on October 16, 2021, a group of engineers huddled around a long conference table in Titusville, Florida. Lucy was just simple hours into its 12-year journey, however a major unexpected challenge had actually surfaced for the first-ever Trojan asteroids mission.
Information showed that a person of Lucys solar selections– created to unfurl like a hand fan– hadnt totally opened and latched. Considering that the solar selections power the spacecrafts systems, the team needed to determine what to do next.
To troubleshoot the problem, groups from NASA and Lucy objective partners rapidly came together. Employee from Lockheed Martins Mission Support Area beyond Denver, who were in interaction with the spacecraft directly, were on the phone.

Quickly after Lucy introduced, one of its solar arrays failed to totally deploy, putting the mission at risk. For months, Lucys flight operations team worked meticulously to deal with the problem and put Lucy back on its solar-powered journey to the Jupiter Trojans.
These enormous solar arrays will power the Lucy spacecraft throughout its whole 4-billion-mile, 12-year journey through space as it heads out to explore Jupiters elusive Trojan asteroids. To examine Lucys solar variety configuration in real-time, the group fired thrusters on the spacecraft and gathered information on how those forces made the solar selection vibrate. Next, they fed the data into an in-depth model of the arrays motor assembly to presume how rigid Lucys selection was– which assisted reveal the source of the concern.