(ORDO NEWS) — NASA mission leaders to the asteroid Lucy (Lucy) are increasingly confident that the mission can continue as planned, even if ongoing efforts to fully deploy and fix the solar array are not successful.
Engineers have been studying one of the two circular solar arrays for several months now, which failed to fully deploy and lock in after the spacecraft launched in October 2021.
They concluded that the string used to deploy the solar array lost tension during the deployment process, causing the string to wrap around the motor shaft.
On May 9, the controllers issued commands to simultaneously start the main and standby motors for the solar array deployment process, hoping that stronger tension would be sufficient to restore lanyard tension and continue the array deployment. After that, the spacecraft fired both engines three times.
This has allowed us to make significant progress towards fixation, but we have not yet reached it,” Hal Levison, Lucy’s principal investigator at the Southwestern Research Institute, said at a June 8 meeting of the NASA Small Body Assessment Panel. “We are seeing significant tension systems”.
This tension, he says, is a positive sign, despite the array not being fixed in place. “This makes it likely that even if we don’t secure it, we will be able to fly normally,” he said, noting that the battery array in its current configuration is producing more than 90% of the planned power.
The mission is preparing for a gravity flyby in October, when the spacecraft will pass at an altitude of about 350 kilometers above the Earth.
After a second flyby of Earth in 2024, Lucy will fly past a main belt asteroid in 2025, then past several Trojan asteroids in a cluster leading to Jupiter in orbit around the Sun in 2027 and 2028.
The third flyby of the Earth in 2030 will lead to an encounter with two Trojan asteroids in a separate cluster,
To prepare for the October flyby, Lucy performed a trajectory correction maneuver on June 7, NASA reported in a June 8 blog post. This maneuver is the first of several planned ahead of the flyby in October.
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