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NASA Lucy probe: the second solar collector will be fully deployed

NASA Lucy probe: the second solar collector will be fully deployed

More than half a year after the launch of NASA’s Lucy probe, the US space agency launched another attempt to fully deploy the second solar panel. Four times since the beginning of May, those responsible have managed to get the engines to pull with special force on the strap that is supposed to help unfold, explains NASA. The data sent back by the instrument would have shown that the solar panel voltage was in fact slowly increasing. Now there are many other opportunities for further attempts to bring the collector to its intended position. Extensive ground testing preceded the rationalization, which now involved both the main and standby engines.

The Lucy probe, named after an important fossil of the human ancestor Australopithecus afarensis, was launched on October 16. During their 12-year mission, they will primarily investigate so-called Jupiter Trojans. These are asteroids that stably orbit the Sun in Jupiter’s orbit in two large groups: one in front of the gas giant planet and one behind it. Primitive celestial bodies are considered fossils of planet formation, about which NASA hopes to gain new insights. Lucy is the first mission to be sent to asteroids, seven of which she will visit. In addition, Lucy should also pass the asteroid Donaldjohanson in the main belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It is named after the discoverer of the fossil “Lucy”.

The probe gets its power from two large solar collectors, which are supposed to supply enough electricity to run the probe and science instruments, even when they are far from the sun, in Jupiter’s orbit. After takeoff, he was supposed to fully deploy them, but that hadn’t worked. Initial tests showed that one of the two was only 75 to 95 percent extended. Until it clicks into place, it is held in place by a strap that is supposed to help unfold it. NASA now claimsthat initial data would suggest that the additional voltage already achieved could be enough to continue the mission as planned.

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