NASA’s Lucy mission: 20 minutes of terror will define the next 12 years

Lucy will travel to eight asteroids over the next 12 years.

Illustration by Lockheed Martin

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on Friday, October 15th. On Saturday, Lucy’s lift-off was successful, and the mission’s senior researcher called for a is really amazing, In the sense of old-fashioned words. Lucy is safe Spread out Her solar array too. However, read for your own insights into Lucy’s launch and mission …

Saturday, NASA Lucy Spacecraft It will be the first spacecraft launched towards Jupiter’s asteroid, an ancient rock trapped in Jupiter’s orbit. These rocks are fossilized components of our solar system and may hold a record of the evolution of giant planets.

But for Lucy to make history and finally uncover the secrets of our corner of the universe, this weekend’s lift-off must be perfect. Given the spacecraft’s unique orbit (using the power of the sun to cover billions of miles in 12 years), there are some checkpoints that are ready to keep mission specialists on their toes.

As outsiders, we usually only look at the surprise when a rocket is launched and surrounded by flames and smoke. But Lucy’s success isn’t just about a fierce departure from Earth. I talked to one of Lockheed Martin’s spacecraft engineers to get inside information about the milestones her team would monitor during takeoff.

read more: How to watch NASA’s Lucy spacecraft launch live on Saturday

This is the launch sequence from NASA’s perspective.

Emily Gramrich, Lockheed Martin’s system integration and test engineer and Lucy’s mission specialist, said: “As the rocket rises, we pass through the atmosphere.”

During that phase, Lucy reaches its maximum speed and pressure. “Then we separate from the booster and the bearings unfold to open us into outer space,” continued Gramrich.

Researchers are working on one of Lucy’s folded solar arrays.

Lockheed Martin

Lucy’s spectacular launch isn’t the only one. Perhaps the most important part of the launch pattern is to deploy two solar arrays of the spacecraft after it has traveled 62 miles (100 km) into space.

When fully opened, the array together reaches the height of a five-story building. “They are huge,” Gramrich said. It takes about 20 minutes to fully extend from an origami-like crease.

They are so large because the orbit of Jupiter, to which Lucy is heading, is far from the Sun. And Lucy will need all the solar power that can be gained to travel those 530 million miles (853 million kilometers).

“The last 20 minutes will determine the success of the mission for the remaining 12 years,” said Hallevison, NASA’s planetary scientist and senior researcher at Lucy Mission. In the statement..

“The Mars lander has seven minutes of horror. We have this,” he said.

After the solar array is fully extended, Lucy performs another important task. All solar panels that make up the two arrays need to be adjusted to be exposed to the sun. Without the sun, solar panels cannot supply electricity. Without power, the mission is over.

“Once that’s done, the spacecraft can move itself a little more and point the antenna at Earth, so you can get the first acquisition,” Gramrich said.

The last bit, “initial acquisition”, is repeated. In other words, all the steps up to that point Pre-programmed. That is correct. At the most important moment, no one controls the spacecraft. The exact movement of each is already coded in the software.


One of Lucy’s solar arrays, fully stretched.

Lockheed Martin

“Lucy has been encapsulated since last week, so I’ve only seen it in a small access window,” Gramrich said. “The next time we will open is outer space.”

NASA engineers need to sit firmly and keep their fingers crossed until Lucy finds a foothold in space.

Lucy’s boot camp

You name it, Lucy has gone through it. Several times.

“We are doing acoustic and vibration tests on a large building on the Waterton campus,” said Gramrich, referring to the Lockheed Martin test site in Colorado. “We shake the spacecraft really hard and then blast it with sound to simulate most launches.”

She said the most physically demanding part of Lucy’s 12-year journey was the launch this weekend. When it enters the universe, the situation becomes much milder. However, because the universe has its own extremes, the team sought to protect Lucy from them as well.

“We take the spacecraft into a huge heat chamber and let it pass through all the temperature ranges found in space (hot and cold, light and no light),” Gramlich said.


Named after a famous fossil of human ancestry, Lucy is dropped off in an environmental laboratory in Lockheed Martin Space, Littleton, Colorado.

Lockheed Martin

Lucy’s complexity isn’t just about that mechanism. The software that drives the Metal Space Explorer has a significant number of essential components such as computers, thermometers, cameras, and batteries. I had to test each one over and over again.

Gramlich is one of Lucy’s key devices Star lacquer This is useful for navigation similar to how the North Star helps us guess the direction we are heading.

“We have additional ground support equipment to simulate the stars it might be seeing,” she said. “And rotate those stars to make sure the star lacquer detects them. [actually] Rotated in that little simulator. “

Once Lucy is stable, go beyond that

“I’m very excited to see Lucy take off on Saturday,” Gramrich said. “We’ve been working on this launch date for a long time, but the pandemic has taken a long time and the last few weeks have been very energetic.”

Hope everything goes well Saturday NASA launch date, Lucy travels towards the Trojan Jupiter asteroid at about 39,000 mph (62,764 kph). It uses the gravitational pull of the Earth as a lever force during a long journey and visits seven of the precious ancient rocks. It will also make a pit stop in another world between Mars and Jupiter.

During the expedition, Gramrich said the team would check Lucy about once every two weeks and enter commands based on newly discovered information such as photographs and spectroscopic data about the asteroids Lucy would send back to Earth. .. She said each command would take about 55 minutes to reach the craft.


Lucy’s engineer working on a spaceship.

Lockheed Martin

And after the mission is over the next decade, the possibilities are endless.

“Our last flyby was in 2033,” Gramlich said. “By then, we’ve done three Earth flybys and learned a lot about our orbits and how to make it most efficient to continue exploring other asteroids.”

Gramrich calls this an extended mission and states that Lucy’s solar array can continue to power spacecraft that pass through the solar system indefinitely. That is, Lucy can theoretically send back information about other forms of cosmic matter.

“The solar array we have for Lucy is incredibly efficient and will allow us to operate the spacecraft for extended periods of time,” she said. “Even at Jupiter’s distance. The on-board battery is also designed to be used and charged.”

But first, Lucy has to overcome that legendary launch.

“I’m part of this team and it’s a great honor to see how much care everyone is working on,” Gramrich said.

“We are ready for a successful scientific mission to the Trojan.”

Correction, 2:20 pm PT: Earlier versions of this story misunderstood where one of the spacecraft engineers works. Emily Gramrich works for Lockheed Martin. Also, the deck headings have been changed to make it clear that the trojan Jupiter asteroids share Jupiter’s orbit.

NASA’s Lucy mission: 20 minutes of terror will define the next 12 years Source link NASA’s Lucy mission: 20 minutes of terror will define the next 12 years

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