September 28, 2022

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How engineers mounted Lucy spacecraft’s photo voltaic array challenge

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NASA’s Lucy spacecraft has had a troubled start to its mission, with a deployment issue affecting its photo voltaic power system — nevertheless fortunately, engineers have been able to cope with the issue. Now, NASA has shared additional data on how members of the Lucy employees labored to troubleshoot and restore the problem from Earth and the craft raced by way of home.

Lucy’s Photo voltaic Powered Journey Continues

Lucy launched in October 2021, with its two spherical picture voltaic arrays folded as a lot as match contained within the rocket fairing. As soon as in home shortly after launch, Lucy was to deploy the two arrays to assemble the picture voltaic vitality which could power the craft on its prolonged journey to the Trojan asteroids, positioned throughout the orbit of Jupiter. One array deployed as anticipated, however, the other didn’t completely deploy. The arrays have been presupposed to unfurl identical to the fingers of a clock and latch into place, nevertheless one deployed solely partway and didn’t latch.

The good news was that the craft was producing adequate power to keep up itself even with the array solely partly deployed. Nonetheless, when not latched into place the array was not beneath strain which made it flimsy, and there have been concerns that the forces of future maneuvering would possibly shake or hurt the array. The Lucy employees, consisting of engineers and scientists from NASA, Lockheed Martian, Northrop Grumman, and the Southwest Analysis Institute (SwRI), began working to find out what they might do.

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“We have now an extremely proficient crew, but it surely was vital to provide them time to determine what occurred and find out how to transfer ahead,” talked about Hal Levison, Lucy’s principal investigator from SwRI, in a press release. “Luckily, the spacecraft was the place it was speculated to be, functioning nominally, and – most significantly – protected. We had time.”

The employees discovered that the problem had been attributable to a lanyard, which was tugged by a motor to pull the array into its spherical type. One thing appeared to have snagged the lanyard and prevented the array from completely opening. They confronted a different: Go away the craft as a result of it was, in the meanwhile healthful nevertheless most likely risking points ultimately, or use additional energy from a backup motor to tug extra firmly on the lanyard.

“Every path carried some component of danger to realize the baseline science goals,” talked about Barry Noakes, Lockheed Martin’s deep home exploration chief engineer. “A giant a part of our effort was figuring out proactive actions that mitigate danger in both situation.”

Having modeled out the hazards of each chance using test footage and a replica of the craft proper right here on Earth, the employees decided to attempt to restore the issue. It took a number of periods of tweaking and tugging on the lanyard by way of Could and June this yr, nevertheless in the end, the array was nearly fully deployed. It nonetheless isn’t latched into place, but it surely absolutely has deployed to between 353 and 357 ranges of 360 ranges, which is safe adequate for the craft to hold out its mission.

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Lucy now continues its prolonged journey, scheduled to succeed in on the Trojans in 2027.

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