In Space

Lucy in space (render)

NASA Suspends Effort To Fully Deploy Lucy's Solar Array

NASA has called off all efforts to fully deploy LUCY's solar array, stating that the issue is "an acceptable level of risk".

  • More details coming soon...
Jay Keegan

Jay Keegan

Sun Jan 22 2023Written by Jay Keegan

NASA has called off all efforts to fully deploy Lucy's solar array, stating that the issue is "an acceptable level of risk".

What Is Lucy?

Lucy undergoing encapsulation before launch // Credit: NASA

Lucy is a NASA orbiter that will study several Trojan asteroids, which are a group of asteroids that orbit the Sun in the same orbit as Jupiter (asteroid belt). The mission's goal is to learn more about the origins and evolution of these asteroids, as well as the broader solar system.

The spacecraft is named after the early human ancestor Lucy, in reference to the mission's aim of uncovering the origins of our solar system.

Launch & Deployment

Liftoff of LUCY aboard Atlas V // Credit: NASA

On October 16, 2021, ULA's mighty Atlas V in its 401 configuration ("Slick Atlas") took to the skies on the Space Coast carrying NASA's Lucy spacecraft to space

As per tradition for ULA, the launcher successfully inserted Lucy into its precise orbit. Engineers then proceeded to review data on the health of Lucy before performing a number of commissioning activities - most notably, deployment of the solar arrays shortly after separation from the Centaur upper stage.

The Issue

Shortly after launch, teams on the ground noticed the one of Lucy's two solar arrays had not fully unfurled and latched as expected. At the time of the anomaly, little was known about how this would impact Lucy's mission. Teams have since worked tirelessly to perform a full analysis of the anomaly and have deemed it "an acceptable level of risk,", and that further attempts to deploy the array would not be beneficial at this time.

However, despite this, engineers will continue to monitor the status of Lucy's power generation through its mission and if required can perform additional troubleshooting options as needed.

Impacts On The Mission

It is currently unclear how this will impact Lucy's mission, and it is difficult to determine.

The next critical review points will be during a manoeuvre in February 2024 when the spacecraft operates its main engine for the first time, as well as when the spacecraft performs its second Earth gravity assist in December 2024.

If teams determine during data reviews that the spacecraft is receiving insufficient power, they will re-evaluate the situation and move forward with potential alternate resolution plans.