Everything is proceeding for a historic launch on Saturday morning 10-16-21 at 05:34 AM EDT or 9:34 UTC for the 100th launch from SLC-41 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The Atlas V 401 rocket is the workhorse of the Atlas V fleet with 39 total launches to date in this configuration of a four meter fairing no solid rocket boosters and one Centaur 2nd stage engine. In its nearly 20 years of service the 401 has launched a diverse set of missions including national security, science and exploration, commercial and international Space Station resupply missions. The very first Atlas V 401 launch was back on August 21, 2002. This rocket will produce about 860,000 pounds of thrust at liftoff.
During a NASA held engineering meeting Katie Oakman said when Lucy’s solar arrays are fully extended to 28 feet in diameter or 7.3 meters (each) with both solar arrays and satellite it will then be as tall as a four story building. This is the first spacecraft to fly this deep in space without nuclear energy using only the suns rays for power and the on board fuel for course corrections during the 12 year mission. Northrup Grumman built these solar arrays and they fold out like a Chinese pleated fan. Near earth the solar arrays will produce about 18,000 watts of power but near Jupiter it will only produce around 500 watts of power due to the distance from the sun. The spacecraft has been designed to run on only 82 watts of power for this reason.
Coralie Adam stated that the angle of intercept for each of the eight asteroid targets is different for the others and when Lucy performs her 2nd Earth Gravity Assist (EGA) maneuver it will increase in speed from 200 mph to 11,000 mph after EGA. There will be a total of three EGA during the 12 odyssey. When Lucy does intercept a Trojan or main belt asteroid it will be from 620 miles to 1,000 kilometers away. The solar arrays will deploy about 58 minutes after second stage separation occurs. After the second day in space the instrument payload platform (IPP) will be deployed and has a two axis gimbals. It will take up to 55 minutes for the images Lucy takes with its different telescopes to be sent back to Earth after each asteroid intercept. These asteroids are time capsules of our universe from billions of years ago.
Jessica Lounsbury stated that Lucy has been tested from minus 250 degrees to plus 350 degrees to replicate the temperatures it will see in its journey. The acoustic and vibration testing was as loud as a jet engine produces. They have also taken measures to make sure there isn’t any glint coming off any of the instruments that could effect each other.
The entire NASA, NASA Goddard, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, Southwest Research Institute, and many more organizations are all ready for liftoff and Lucy’s future flight.
Article and Photos Credit Scott Schilke for spacenews.lu and space-news.es