With limited preliminary funding NASA selected the Lucy Mission as a concept in Sept. 2015 and It started taking shape with a very small team of dedicated scientist, mission planners, engineers and staff. In Jan 4th 2017 NASA gave the green light with full approval in Phase A funding for this deep space mission the first to ever investigate the Trojans. The team has grown to 500 plus personnel since those early days and the excitement by all involved is palpable. The first metal piece of the spacecraft were cut four years from approval of the concept.
Why Lucy? Why the Trojan swarms? Per Cathy Olkin Southwest Research Institute Lucy Principal Investigator said in a briefing to media on September 29th 2021 at AstroTech Titusville “The Trojan’s diversity is a clue to the evolution of our solar system and has never been explored. Lucy will be the first mission to visit the most asteroids in this 12 year journey.” She went on to say that the L-4 Swarm of Eurybates & Queta a C type asteroids, Polymele a P type asteroid, Leucus a D type asteroid and Orus another D type asteroid will all be visited and explored during the 2027 to 2028 time period after the 2nd EGA (Earth Gravity Assist) for these five targets. These targets are in the forward cluster of asteroids ahead of Jupiter’s orbit.
The L-5 cluster targets the tailing swarm to Jupiter will feature Patroclus & Menoetius both binary & P type asteroids and are in a synchronized dance around each other. It will take a third EGA to reach them during the 2033 time period in the mission.
Arlin Bartels NASA GSFC Lucy Deputy Project Manager stated “The pandemic hit at a critical time during the instrument teams beginning of fabrication and testing. Which became a daunting feat to keep everyone safe and stay on track with the mission time line.” He goes onto to explain the IPP or Instrument Pointing Platform has an instrument from Goddard a combined visible color imager & near infrared spectral mapper called L’Ralph.
Also on the gimbaled platform is L’Tes is a thermal emissions spectrometer, TTCam from Lockheed Martin is a visible terminal tracking cameras for on board guidance & control and L’Lorri is a high resolution panchromatic imager from Maryland.
Cavan Cuddy Lockheed Martin Systems Design Lead took over the remaining briefing describing the important 2nd & 3rd EGA maneuvers to pump up the Delta V and reach the L-4 and L-5 targets. This mission trajectory will never occur again in our lifetimes so reaching the launch window of 23 days long with the opening on October 16th for this mission is important.
The massive golden solar arrays are 7.2 meters in diameter producing one kilowatt of power near the Earth orbit and 500 watts of power at the farthest points near the Trojans. The darkness of deep space is why they have to be so large. When both arrays are fully deployed the space craft is 50 feet tall equivalent to a five story building weighing 3,300 pounds or 1500 kilograms fully fueled. RCS thrusters use Hydrazine and the main engine has Hydrazine plus an oxidizer. The high gain antenna can send 10 kilobits per second out at the Trojans and 350 kilobits a second when Lucy is near Earth. Fun fact there is two miles of wiring harness on board.
When Lucy is at its farthest points from Earth it will take 45 minutes for data to be received by the Lucy team. As the briefing wrapped up the focus and resolve to reach the Trojan asteroids is very intense with the entire team.
The AstroTech Clean Room team were very efficient and diligent in preparing us with the boots, bunny suits, hoods, masks and cleaned camera gear helping us with the rituals. Pass the airlock and we had 20 minutes to photograph Lucy and the four meter tall ULA payload fairing and talk with subject matter experts in the clean room.
Hal Levison from Southwest Research Institute the Lucy Principal Investigator has been on the project since 2014.
Donya Douglas-Bradshaw NASA GSFC Lucy Project Manager says her goal is to acquire the images and science that Hal Levison first imagined when Lucy was on the drawing board.
Rich Lipe Lockheed Martin Lucy Program Manager is ready for Lucy to reach Jupiter and the Trojans.
Chris McCaa Lockheed Martin Lucy ATLO Manager & Deputy Program Manager
Glenn Davis ULA Spacecraft Integration
Genevieve Taylor NASA LSP Integration Engineer
This day at AstroTech in Titusville was amazing & inspiring to see the dedicated Lucy team in action. We wish all involved a successful launch and 12 year mission ahead.
Spacenews.lu would like to thank everyone at NASA, Lockheed Martin, Southwest Research Institute, AstroTech, ULA for this unparalleled access and their trust in us to get the story out. Ad Astra “To The Stars!”
Article & Photos by Scott Schilke for spacenews.lu and space-news.es