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.
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.
The second engine burn of the Centaur has ended. Next up will be separation of the Lucy spacecraft from Centaur.
The second engine burn of the Centaur upper stage has begun and will last for about six minutes.
The first engine burn of the Centaur upper stage has ended. Centaur, with the Lucy spacecraft, is now in a coast phase.
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.
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.
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.
A weather update from Will Ulrich, weather officer with the 45th Weather Squadron, reports conditions look good for launch of the Lucy mission.
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.