Science

How engineers fastened an issue with the photo voltaic array of the spacecraft “Lucy”

NASA’s spacecraft Lucy had a troubled begin to its mission attributable to a deployment difficulty affecting its solar energy system, however fortunately engineers have been capable of repair the issue. Now, NASA has shared extra details about how members of Lucy’s group labored to troubleshoot and resolve the problem from Earth, whereas the ship raced by means of area.

Lucy launched in October 2021 with two round photo voltaic arrays folded to suit contained in the rocket fairing. As soon as in area shortly after launch, Lucy needed to deploy two arrays to gather photo voltaic power to energy the ship on its lengthy journey to the Trojan asteroids orbiting Jupiter. One array expanded as anticipated, however the different didn’t totally broaden. The arrays have been supposed to show round just like the palms of a clock and lock into place, however one turned solely partially and didn’t snap into place.

The excellent news was that the ship generated sufficient energy to assist itself even with the array partially deployed. Nonetheless, when the array was not locked in place, it was not energized, making it unreliable, and there have been considerations that future maneuvering forces may shake or injury the array. Lucy’s group of engineers and scientists from NASA, Lockheed Martian, Northrop Grumman and the Southwestern Analysis Institute (SwRI) set to work to see what they might do.

“Now we have an extremely gifted group, but it surely was necessary to provide them time to grasp what occurred and the way to transfer ahead,” Hal Levison, Lucy’s principal investigator at SwRI, mentioned in an announcement. “Thankfully, the spacecraft was the place it was alleged to be, functioning usually, and most significantly, secure. We had time.”

The group discovered that the issue was brought on by a wire pulling on the motor to tug the array right into a round form. One thing appeared to catch on the wire and forestall the array from opening totally. They have been confronted with a alternative: depart the ship because it was, presently serviceable however with the potential danger of future issues, or use the backup engine’s additional energy to tug the strains tighter.

“Every path comes with a certain quantity of danger to attain primary scientific objectives,” mentioned Barry Noakes, chief engineer for deep area exploration at Lockheed Martin. “A giant a part of our efforts has been to determine proactive actions that scale back danger in any state of affairs.”

After simulating the dangers of every possibility utilizing check footage and a duplicate of the ship right here on Earth, the group determined to attempt to repair the issue. In Might and June of this yr, it took a number of classes of organising and pulling the wire, however in the long run the array was virtually utterly deployed. It’s nonetheless not fastened in place, but it surely has turned 353-357 levels out of 360 levels, which is secure sufficient for the ship to hold out its mission.

Now Lucy continues her lengthy journey, which ought to arrive on the Trojans in 2027.

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