Just a few hours into its 12-year journey to the Trojan asteroids on Jupiter, the Lucy spacecraft ran into trouble. One of its solar arrays refused to open completely, and mission controllers have since worked out the problem. However, there is good news to report, as the team appears to have made significant progress.
Where Lucy’s release In October 2021, NASA engineers were Trying to open and close the spacecraft’s stubborn solar array. After seven experiments, the solar system is now between 353 degrees and 357 degrees open out of a full 360 degrees. still Not a full circle, but NASA says this configuration good enough for Lucy to continue her mission.
Lucy has been given an unprecedented mission Exploring Trojan Asteroids, two groups of rocky bodies that lead and follow Jupiter as it orbits the sun. In order to survive her long journey through space, Lucy is equipped with two massive solar arrays on either side, each 22 feet (7 meters) wide. The arrays were held in place during Lucy’s first flight into space aboard an Atlas V rocket and were designed to unfold later like a pair of massive hand propellers. While publishing, however, one of Lucy Solar arrays stopped at 347 degrees. Ground controllers worried that the array would suffer further damage when it was time for the spacecraft to launch its main engine.
Lucy’s anomaly response team met within hours of the malfunction, and they worked together to come up with a plan. Hal Levison, principal investigator for Lucy from the Southwest Research Institute, said in a statement statement. “Fortunately, the spacecraft was right where it was supposed to be, working symbolically, and—the most important-Safe. We had time.”
The team brainstormed together for several months Finally we came up with two possible solutions: Either you keep the array at 347 degrees Or start pulling the array rope with the spacecraft’s spare engine. But team members first had to assess the risks associated with both options and proceed accordingly. They built a replica of the backup engine She tested the replica outside its bounds on Earth to see how it would handle efforts in space.
After months of running simulations, NASA decided it would try Deploy the entire Lucy’s Arrays through a series of complex maneuvers and commands sent to the spacecraft while it was 60 million miles (96 million km) from Earth.
On May 9, mission controller Lucy ordered the array to deploy, running its primary and backup engines simultaneously for a series of short intervals to avoid overheating. the team Then he paused to analyze the data before the second attempt on May 12, when Same commands sent repeatedly. After seven trials of pulling the rope during Months In May and June, the Lucy Solar Constellation is now open between 353° and 357°. “Although the array is not fully enclosed, it is significantly more stressed, making it stable enough to operate the spacecraft as needed for mission operations,” NASA wrote in a statement.
Lucy is preparing for her first gravity assist in October 2022, when she will fly across Earth in order to use the planet’s gravity to pull the spacecraft, thus changing its orbital path outside of Mars’ orbit. We root for you, Lucy. Even if your matrix is a few degrees away.
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