NASA Lucy Trojan Asteroid Mission Update: focusing on the Path Forward for the Solar array

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

NASA plans to run additional testing on the ground using an engineer’s model for Lucy’s Lucy solar array’s motor and lanyard ahead of possibly attempting to deploy fully one of the solar arrays on the probe.

A team from the project completed an evaluation on the 1st of December of the solar array problem that did not seem to be fully operational as originally scheduled after its launch in late October. Initial ground tests revealed that further motor operations are needed to increase the chance of the array latching in the way it was intended to, and the team has suggested further tests.

Spacecraft operations involved charging batteries and charging them when looking at Earth. The spacecraft was moved towards the Sun while controlling on the motor of a solar array by the parameters of the launch day, returning to pointing towards Earth, after which it would perform a recharge and discharge of the batteries. The solar arrays charge batteries, after which the batteries are intentionally discharged, and the Solar array’s circuits are utilized to charge the batteries. The charging and discharge processes provide the team with additional information on how solar arrays work.

The team collected information on two gores – the solar array panels that comprise the entire array, which previously did not have any information. NASA now has information for all ten gores that confirms they are functioning and producing power following the plan and aren’t shackled together.

The activities will help the agency develop a solid strategy for implementing the system fully. Further tests on the ground utilizing the engineering model will verify a two-motor approach to deploy the array fully. NASA is currently developing plans and the resources required to support this initiative and exploring the possibility of removing the array as is.

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