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Solar Array of Lucy Spacecraft Fails to Deploy

Spacecraft issue

Solar Array of Lucy Spacecraft Fails to Deploy

NASA engineers are investigating issues with the Lucy spacecraft after the agency noticed that one of the two circular solar arrays failed to lock in place after launch on Saturday. NASA noted that apart from the issues with the solar panels, the Lockheed Martin-manufactured spacecraft is in healthy condition.

According to a NASA statement issued on Sunday, the solar array may not have fully latched after deployment. It added that while one array may not be fully locked in place, both are still generating power. NASA also does not see any threat to the spacecraft’s health and safety. The space agency is sifting through data to determine the next steps to get the solar array to fully deploy, SpaceNews reported.

There are no indications yet to tell if the issues with the solar array would affect Lucy’s other activities. The spacecraft is slated to deploy its instrument pointing platform sometime in the week of Oct. 18. The instrument pointing platform houses three major instruments.

Katie Oakman, head of Lucy structures and mechanisms at Lockheed Martin Space, said circular panels offered the most area while fitting in the confines of the payload fairing of the Atlas rocket, the launch vehicle for Lucy. She also added that the number of solar cells attached to the circular array would allow Lucy to travel further away from the sun compared to other solar-powered spacecraft.

The circular solar arrays measure 7.3 meters in diameter each and have a combined 51 square meters of solar cells. In the vicinity of Earth, the component can generate 18 kilowatts of power. When flying by a Trojan asteroid, the arrays will produce only 500 watts of power, which is enough to power the spacecraft and its main instruments. The Lucy mission will investigate a series of Trojan asteroids in Jupiter and one main belt asteroid.

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Category: Space