Space

NASA Lucy Trojan Asteroid Mission Update: Zeroing in on Path Forward for Solar Array

NASA’s Lucy spacecraft deploying its solar arrays. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA plans to conduct additional ground tests on an engineering model of the Lucy solar array motor and lanyard prior to potentially attempting full deployment of one of the probe’s solar arrays.

A project team completed an assessment on December 1 of the ongoing solar array issue, which did not appear to fully deploy as planned after launch in late October. Initial ground tests determined additional motor operations are required to increase the probability of the latching Lucy’s array in place as intended, and the team has recommended additional testing.

Spacecraft operations included discharging and charging the battery while pointed at Earth, moving the spacecraft to point to the Sun, operating the solar array motor with the launch day parameters, moving back to pointing at Earth, and then another battery discharge and recharge. The solar arrays charge the batteries, then the batteries are deliberately discharged, and the solar array circuits are used to recharge the batteries; performing these charging and discharging processes gives the team more information about the solar array circuits.

The team gathered information on two of the 10 gores – the individual solar array panel segments that make up the full array — that previously had no data. NASA now has data on all 10 gores confirming they are open, producing power as expected, and not stuck together.

These activities are helping the agency create a robust plan for attempting to fully deploy the array. Additional ground tests using the engineering model setup will validate a two-motor attempt for full deployment. NASA currently is creating a schedule and the resources needed to support that effort, as well as continuing to study the possibility of leaving the array as is.

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