Lucy’s Solar Arrays Deployed

Lucy’s twin solar arrays have deployed. Acquisition of the signal has been confirmed and health of the spacecraft is being checked. Lucy is now operating on its own power and begins its journey to reach the Trojan asteroids.

Lucy Separates from the Centaur Upper Stage

We have spacecraft separation! Cheers and applause can be heard from the launch teams as the Lucy spacecraft separates from the United Launch Alliance Atlas V Centaur upper stage to fly freely for the first time. In just a few minutes, the spacecraft’s solar arrays will deploy.

Centaur Takes Over, Payload Fairing Jettisoned

The Centaur upper stage main engine has started its burn following on-time booster engine cutoff and Atlas/Centaur separation. The first of two burns for the Centaur main engine start will last nearly eight minutes. The payload fairing has been jettisoned.

Liftoff! Atlas V Clears the Launch Pad with NASA’s Lucy Spacecraft

A United Launch Alliance V 401 rocket, with NASA’s Lucy spacecraft atop, powers off the pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida at 5:34 a.m. EDT on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021.
A United Launch Alliance V 401 rocket, with NASA’s Lucy spacecraft atop, powers off the pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida at 5:34 a.m. EDT on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. The launch was managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center. Lucy will embark on a 12-year primary mission to explore a record-breaking number of asteroids, including the Jupiter Trojan asteroids. Named after a fossilized human ancestor whose skeleton provided discoverers insight into humanity’s evolution, the Lucy mission will do much of the same, providing scientists and researchers a look into the origins of our solar system. Photo credit: NASA

We have booster ignition and liftoff of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 5:34 a.m. EDT  from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, carrying NASA’s Lucy spacecraft! The rocket is on its way, carrying the spacecraft to begin its voyage to explore the Trojan asteroids.

About four minutes into flight, a series of key events will occur in rapid succession: Atlas booster engine cutoff, separation of the booster from the Centaur upper stage, ignition of the Centaur main engine for its first of two burns, then jettison of the payload fairing.

T-4 Minutes and Counting

The NASA launch conductor has polled mission managers for “go” to launch. The Lucy countdown is now underway, proceeding toward a liftoff at 5:34 a.m. EDT. During the last four minutes of the countdown, the Atlas and Centaur propellant tanks will be brought up to flight pressure, the rocket and spacecraft will be confirmed on internal power, and the Eastern Range and launch managers will perform final status checks. A computerized auto sequencer will take over the countdown in order to conduct a host of activities in precise order. Weather conditions are still good for launch.

The Lucy Science Payloads

An artist illustration of the Lucy spacecraft.
An artist illustration of the Lucy spacecraft. Image credit: NASA

Lucy will explore the Trojan asteroids with a suite of remote sensing instruments:

  • L’Ralph – an instrument provided by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, that consists of two parts:

L’Ralph Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA), an infrared imaging spectrometer that will reveal the absorption lines that serve as the fingerprints for different silicates, ices and organics that may be on the surface of the Trojan asteroids, and

L’Ralph Multi-spectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), that will take color images of the Trojans to help determine their composition and look for indications of surface activity.

  • Lucy Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (L‘LORRI) – a high resolution, panchromatic visible camera made by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. L’LORRI will provide the most detailed images of the surface of the Trojan asteroids.
  • Lucy Thermal Emission Spectrometer (L’TES) – an instrument built by Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, that will measure the surface temperature of the Trojan asteroids by observing the thermal infrared spectrum, helping to understand the physical properties of the surface material.

Additionally, the navigation cameras will be used to determine the shapes of the Trojan asteroids. The High Gain Antenna will be used to both communicate with Earth and to carry out radio science experiments to measure the masses of the Trojan asteroids. Lucy Radio science is led by a team from the University of Cologne, Germany.