NASA's Lucy Mission Continues The Deployment And Repair Of Solar Cell Arrays

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NASA's Lucy mission was launched by the Atlas V rocket of the joint launch Alliance on October 16, 2021. At first, everything seemed to be going well -- Lucy was carrying out its bold mission to explore the Trojan asteroid group. However, the task soon ran into trouble. Although both solar panels were deployed, one of them was not fully opened or locked in the fully deployed position.

Although the solar battery pack is generating a lot of power, NASA is concerned that under the current configuration, the burning of the main engine may damage the battery pack. Therefore, the team decided to promote a plan to solve this problem.

NASA's Lucy mission team is working on this multi-phase effort to further deploy the spacecraft's unlocked solar array. On May 9, the team ordered the spacecraft to operate the deployed motors of the array using both the main motor and the standby motor windings to generate more torque, i.e. greater tension. The motor operated as expected, further rolling up the rope to pull apart the solar cell array. After the motor ran for a series of short intervals to avoid overheating, the team suspended the analysis of the results. The data from the spacecraft showed that the progress of the deployment work was similar to the engineering ground test, enabling the team to continue the second phase of the attempt. The analysis of the data also shows that there are still more lifting ropes to be retracted. The group issued the same order again on 12 May. Although this series of instructions did not completely lock the solar battery pack, it did advance the deployment work to the extent that it was expected to increase the tension of the stable battery pack.

On May 26, the spacecraft was ordered to deploy solar cell arrays again. As in the previous two attempts, both motor windings operated simultaneously for a short time to avoid overheating. After that, the team analyzed the data of the event again and showed that the array was continuing to open again. On June 2, the research team repeated the deployment instruction sequence for the fourth time. Although the array is still unlocked, the data shows that it continues to be further deployed and strengthened throughout the trial.

The team also had several opportunities to repeat these deployment orders. Although there is no guarantee that more attempts will lock the array, there is strong evidence that this process is putting the array under more tension and further stabilizing it. Even if the array eventually does not lock, additional enhancements may be sufficient to keep the task on schedule.

The spacecraft completed a trajectory correction maneuver on June 7. This is the first in a series of maneuvers conducted by the spacecraft in preparation for the first earth gravity assistance mission on October 16, 2022.

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