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Lucy: Solar Panel Deployment Tests a Success

7 Apr 2021, 18:25 UTC
Lucy: Solar Panel Deployment Tests a Success
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It’s easy to forget how large our space probes have been. A replica of the Galileo probe during at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory can startle at first glance. The spacecraft was 5.3 meters high (17 feet), but an extended magnetometer boom telescoped out to 11 meters (36 feet). Not exactly the starship Enterprise, of course, but striking when you’re standing there looking up at the probe and pondering what it took to deliver this entire package to Jupiter orbit in the 1990s.

The same feeling settles in this morning with news out of Lockheed Martin Space, where in both December 2020 and February of 2021 final deployment tests were conducted on the solar arrays that will fly aboard the Lucy mission. Scheduled for launch this fall (the launch window opens on October 16), Lucy is to make a 12-year reconnaissance of the Trojan asteroids of Jupiter. Given that energy from the Sun is inversely proportional to the square of the distance, Lucy in Jupiter space will receive only 1/27th of the energy available at Earth orbit
Image: Seen here partially unfurled, the Lucy spacecraft’s massive solar arrays completed their first deployment tests in January 2021 inside the thermal vacuum chamber ...

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