NASA is investigating a possible problem with the Lucy spacecraft hours after launch


NASA says its engineers are currently investigating a potential problem with their Lucy spacecraft in which one of its solar arrays may have failed to hold its place, according to a digital trend technical report.

Lucy was launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Saturday, October 16.

The spacecraft is headed toward Jupiter to study Trojan asteroids on an ambitious mission that scientists hope will tell us more about the formation of our solar system billions of years ago.

But the space agency revealed that when Lucy deployed its 24-foot-wide solar arrays 90 minutes after launch and 30 minutes after separating from the rocket’s second stage, one of them may have failed to snap into place.

In a message posted on its website on Sunday, October 17, NASA said that while Lucy appears to be “working well and stable, indications are that the second array may not be completely closed.” However, both arrays are producing energy at present.

She said that in the current position of the spacecraft (the spacecraft’s orientation in space), Lucy can continue to operate “without any threat to her health and safety.”

NASA confirmed that its team is now “analyzing spacecraft data to understand the situation and determine the next steps to achieve a full deployment of the solar system.” It declined to describe the potential consequences if it failed to secure the second set.

It’s clearly a worrisome situation, but Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, made a positive note after hearing the news, tweeting: “This team has overcome many challenges already and I’m confident they will prevail here too.”

The spacecraft is currently traveling at 67,000 miles per hour on a trajectory that it must see orbiting the sun and returning it toward Earth in October of next year for gravitational assistance to send it to its destination.

Planning for the Lucy mission began in 2014, and assuming it overcomes the current problem, it will be NASA’s first single spacecraft mission to explore many different asteroids — eight in total.

“It will be several years before we reach the first Trojan asteroid, but these things are well worth the wait and all, the effort because of their tremendous scientific value,” Lucy mission principal investigator Hal Levison of Southwest Research Institute said while discussing the challenging 12-year endeavor recently. They are like diamonds in the sky,

We’ll be sure to provide an update once NASA releases more information about the current anomaly.


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