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NASA 's Lucy spacecraft gets into trouble on asteroid mission to Jupiter

NASA has sent the Lucy spacecraft flying towards Jupiter on a big asteroid mission, but that is now in jeopardy as one of its solar panels hasn’t deployed fully.
NASA has sent the Lucy spacecraft flying towards Jupiter on a big asteroid mission, but that is now in jeopardy as one of its solar panels hasn’t deployed fully. (NASA)

NASA's Lucy spacecraft, which is headed for Jupiter’s orbit has developed a snag after its launch.

One of NASA’s latest space missions is in trouble. After successfully launching into space. Lucy spacecraft, which is supposed to study Trojan asteroids in Jupiter’s orbit, has developed a snag while deploying its solar panels. The spacecraft is unable to deploy one of its solar panels fully, which could eventually put it in trouble. NASA is currently trying to fix the issue.

The Lucy spacecraft has reportedly been unable to deploy one of its solar arrays fully while preparing for the journey to Jupiter’s orbit. The other solar array is functioning normally while the flawed unit is generating slightly less power as compared to its normal state. This remains a concern as Lucy solely relies on solar power to stay alive; there’s no nuclear reactor onboard to keep it powered.

Lucy spacecraft can’t unfold its “wings”

"The team continues to look at all available engineering data to establish how far it is deployed," according to an update from NASA. "That solar array is generating nearly the expected power when compared to the fully deployed wing. This power level is enough to keep the spacecraft healthy and functioning,” says NASA at the moment.

However, despite the undeployed solar array, Lucy is heading on its path to Jupiter’s orbit. After staying in the safe mode for running essential functions, Lucy has transtioned into cruise mode. "This mode has increased autonomy and spacecraft configuration changes, which is necessary as Lucy moves away from Earth," said the agency. "The team continues its assessment and an attempt to fully deploy the solar array is planned no earlier than the end of next week."

Lucy will currently need no more trajectory and momentum adjustments until December. If it reaches Jupiter’s orbit, this will be the first spacecraft to travel the farthest from Earth using solar power to stay alive.

The Lucy mission will study the Trojan asteroids in Jupiter’s orbit. These rocks are expected to be the remnants of the early stages of our solar system and could help us in studying the birth of our solar system. The spacecraft will send high-resolution images of these rocks and help scientists study them. It is expected to function for at least 12 years, during which the spacecraft is also coming back to Earth’s orbit for gravity assists.

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