Days after NASA’s new mission launched a mysterious group of asteroids, spacecraft personnel continue to have trouble with one of the craft’s two massive solar arrays.
The Lucy The spacecraft is designed to fly eight different planes asteroidsMost of them are Trojans that revolve around the sun in the same orbit Jupiter But in front of or behind the huge planet. To complete this task, you will rely on two solar arrays, each more than 24 feet (7 meters) wide. But when the spacecraft published the arrays after launch on Saturday (October 16), Only one seems to have closed properly.
Since then, mission personnel have been working simultaneously to assess the second solar system and complete the unrelated tasks that Lucy needs to accomplish at this point in her journey. in a Permit Released Tuesday (October 19), NASA officials confirmed that the spacecraft can continue to operate with the solar arrays where it is currently deployed and that the glitch isn’t the end of the road for the Lucy mission.
“The team continues its evaluation and is scheduled to attempt to deploy the entire solar array no later than the end of next week,” NASA officials wrote in the statement.
The engineers knew all along that the deployment process, which began about an hour after launch and took about 20 minutes to complete, would be challenging.
“During deployment, there are literally thousands of very small mechanisms and mounds spreading those wings like a Chinese fan,” Katie Oakman, Lucy’s hulls and mechanisms lead Lockheed Martin Space, which built the spacecraft, said Thursday (October 14) during a pre-opening press conference.
And it appears that in a solar array, one of those steps is not exactly planned. “The analysis currently shows that Solar System II is partially undetected,” NASA officials wrote in the statement.
However, expedition personnel are still working to determine precisely how open the disturbing matrix is. The team continues to examine all available engineering data to determine its prevalence. “This solar array generates roughly the expected power when compared to the fully deployed suite. This power level is sufficient to keep the spacecraft safe and operating.”
This is not surprising, given that Lucy’s arrays are designed to run the spacecraft on much less sunlight than it is currently receiving. At orbiting Jupiter’s distance from our star, sunlight is about 25 times fainter than what we see near Earth, According to NASA.
When we are close Earth“These suites have about 18,000 watts of power, so that’s the equivalent of powering my house and two of my neighbours,” Oakman said during the press conference. However, when we fly into Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, we only have about 500 watts of power, so only a few lamps in my living room would light up and it wouldn’t be enough to run the microwave in the morning to heat my coffee. “
She also noted that the devices on the Lucy can collect data while in flight using just 82 watts of power.
As the mission team continues to assess the state of the second solar system, engineers are also working on other missions after launch.
The spacecraft entered cruise mode on Tuesday to give Lucy “more autonomy and spacecraft configuration changes,” according to the statement. The spacecraft also uses its own thrusters to make small adjustments to its momentum.
In a mission victory, the team decided that a standby trajectory correction maneuver was not necessary, because the spacecraft was exactly where it should be, allowing the team to wait until mid-December to perform the first such maneuver.
However, in a concession to the state of the solar array, the spacecraft has yet to deploy its instrumentation guidance platform, which was due to occur about two days after launch.
The statement notes that Lucy’s team is not yet sure whether the incident will have “any long-term effects on other scheduled activities.”