UpClose with NASA Lucy Asteroid Explorer Spacecraft in the Cleanroom: Photos

UpClose with NASA Lucy Asteroid Explorer Spacecraft in the Cleanroom: Photos
NASA Lucy asteroid explorer spacecraft positioned between the two payload fairing halves of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket as seen on Sept. 29, 2021 at Astrotech Space Operations Center, Titusville, FL. Liftoff targeted for Oct. 16, 2021 from pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

ASTROTECH SPACE OPERATIONS, TITIUSVILLE, FL – NASA’s first ever mission to explore the Trojan asteroids named Lucy is in final preparations for launch in one week on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Florida’s Space Coast aiming to explore fossilized remnants leftover from the birth of our Solar System some 4.5 Billion years ago sharing Jupiter’s orbit.

NASA’s Lucy is an ambitious probe unprecedented scope utilizing a ‘once-in-a-lifetime planetary launch window’ that will explore seven pristine Trojan asteroids orbiting ahead of and behind Planet Jupiter at the L4 and L5 Lagrange points and one main belt asteroid during a mission spanning 12 years.

Launch is scheduled for 5:34 a.m. EDT on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, just before sunrise on a ULA Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The launch opportunity runs until 6:49 a.m. on Oct 16 and the overall launch window last just over three weeks.

Check out my up-close photos herein of NASA’s Lucy asteroid explorer taken during my media visit Sept. 29 in the clean room at the Astrotech Space Operation payload processing facility in Titusville located about a dozen miles from the launch pad nearby the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Up close look at NASA Lucy asteroid explorer spacecraft positioned between the two payload fairing halves of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket as seen on Sept. 29, 2021 at Astrotech Space Operations Center, Titusville, FL. Liftoff targeted for Oct. 16, 2021 from pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

To keep Lucy safe and prevent contamination we all wore ‘bunny suits’ and snood masks and gloves taped to our suits

Lucy was positioned between the two payload fairing halves atop the upper stage payload adapter and ready for encapsulation by technicians and sealing the nose cone tightly shut.

 

NASA Lucy asteroid explorer spacecraft positioned between the two payload fairing halves of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket as seen on Sept. 29, 2021 at Astrotech Space Operations Center, Titusville, FL. Liftoff targeted for Oct. 16, 2021 from pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

I was very fortunate and grateful to visit Lucy representing Space UpClose as only a very limited number of media were allowed by NASA into the Astrotech cleanroom.

You can watch my new prelaunch presentation about the Lucy mission on the Oct. 6 edition of the ‘Stay Curious’ space show from the American Space Museum including many of my cleanroom photos – see video below.

Dr. Ken Kremer of Space UpClose visiting NASA Lucy asteroid explorer spacecraft as seen on Sept. 29, 2021 at Astrotech Space Operations Center, Titusville, FL. Liftoff targeted for Oct. 16, 2021 from pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Soon after our cleanroom visit Lucy was encapsulated inside the fairings:

The payload fairing protects the spacecraft during the first few minutes of flight from Earth’s atmosphere, tremendous aerodynamic stresses and frictional heating induced after launch as it soars aloft piercing the atmosphere and accelerates to escape velocity.

NASA Lucy asteroid explorer spacecraft positioned between the two payload fairing halves of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket as seen on Sept. 29, 2021 at Astrotech Space Operations Center, Titusville, FL. Liftoff targeted for Oct. 16, 2021 from pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Watch this NASA video of the encapsulation process:

The next step was transport out to pad 41 and hoisting atop the waiting Atlas V inside the ULA Vertical Integration Facility (VIF).

With Lucy encapsulated inside the nose cone it was raised and placed on the Atlas V second stage in the VIF by ULA technicians on Oct. 7.

Overall the tight timeline launch window lasts 23 days into early November when the orbits of Earth and the trojans align just right

Lucy will be the first space mission to study the Jupiter Trojan asteroids – fossilized remnants of our early solar system trapped in stable orbits.

The Trojans are believed to be comprised of the initial material that formed the planets within the solar system.

No other space mission in history has been launched to as many different destinations in independent orbits around the Sun! says the Lucy team.

Lucy’s 5 Deep Space Maneuvers and 3 Earth Gravity Assists will keep the spacecraft on target!

Watch this NASA visualization:

“We could not be more pleased that NASA has selected ULA to launch this amazing planetary science mission,” says Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and chief executive officer.

“This mission has a once-in-a-lifetime planetary launch window, and Atlas V’s world-leading schedule certainty, coupled with our reliability and performance provided the optimal vehicle for this mission.”

“Our Atlas V rocket has achieved 100 percent mission success, and we look forward to working again with our mission partners to explore our universe.”

The mission will launch aboard an Atlas V 401 configuration rocket with a 4 meter (13-foot) diameter payload fairing and a single engine Centaur upper stage with no thrust augmentation from first stage solid rocket boosters.

Here is a detailed outline of the Lucy asteroid flyby tour:

Lucy mission trajectory tour of Trojan asteroids. Credit: NASA/ULA

After launching on the Atlas V in Oct 2021, Lucy will carry out two Earth flyby maneuvers  in Oct 2022 and Dec 2024 to set up the asteroid flyby tour.

Then it will fly by a main belt asteroid Donaldjohanson in April 2025 named after the discoverer of the Lucy fossil in Ethiopia

The Trojan asteroid flyby’s begin in the L4 swarm in August 2027 leading Jupiter with a total of 5 asteroid encounters, one of which is a binary, and continuing for 15 months into 2028 through November.

Lucy mission trajectory tour of Trojan asteroids. Credit: NASA

Lucy will then fly back to the inner solar system for a 3rd Earth flyby gravity assist to hurl it back out on a 6 year journey and traverse to the L5 Trojan swarm for a flyby of a Trojan binary in March 2033 of the final two asteroids.

During the 4156 day mission Lucy will investigate seven Trojan asteroids, which lead and follow Jupiter in its orbit by roughly 60 degrees and one main belt asteroid that “hold vital clues to the history of the Solar System.”

The Trojans are clustered in two “swarms” of asteroids at the L4 and L5 Lagrange points centered 60 degrees ahead of and behind massive Jupiter in its path around the Sun as the largest planet on our Solar System

These asteroids are thought to be remnants of the initial material that formed the planets within the solar system.

NASA Lucy asteroid explorer between two payload fairing halves of ULA Atlas V rocket seen on Sept. 29, 2021 at Astrotech Space Operations Center, Titusville, FL. Liftoff set for Oct. 16, 2021 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Lucy is a Discovery class mission led by principal investigator Harold “Hal” Levison from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

“Lucy provides us with a unique opportunity,” says Levison.

“Because the Trojans are remnants of the stuff that formed the outer planets, they are literally the fossils of planet formation. Lucy, like the human fossil for which it is named, will revolutionize the understanding of our origins.”

“Jupiter’s swarms of Trojan asteroids may be remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets, and serve as time capsules from the birth of our solar system more than 4 billion years ago. Lucy will be the first space mission to study the Trojans.”

Lucy mission Principal Investigator Hal Levison and team from NASA Goddard and Lockheed Martin pose with asteroid explorer and payload fairing halves of ULA Atlas V rocket seen on Sept. 29, 2021 at Astrotech Space Operations Center, Titusville, FL. Liftoff set for Oct. 16, 2021 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The mission takes its name from the fossilized human ancestor (named “Lucy” by her discoverers) whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity’s evolution.

“Lucy will complete a 12-year journey to seven different asteroids.”

Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado, is prime contractor for the Lucy mission and built the spacecraft.

Up close look at 3 science instruments positioned on the instrument pointing platform on NASA Lucy asteroid explorer spacecraft positioned between the two payload fairing halves of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket as seen on Sept. 29, 2021 at Astrotech Space Operations Center, Titusville, FL. Liftoff targeted for Oct. 16, 2021 from pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Lucy is equipped with a payload of three science instruments which are mounted on the Instrument Pointing Platform (IPP).

The science payload is comprised of L’Ralph, L’Lorri and L’TES.

  • L’Ralph (composed of the Multi[1]spectral Visible Imaging Camera, MVIC – the color visible imager, and the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array, LEISA – the infrared imaging spectrometer).
  • L’LORRI (LOng Range Reconnaissance Imager – the high spatial resolution imager).
  • L’TES (Thermal Emission Spectrometer – for measuring the thermal infrared), and T2CAM (Terminal Tracking CAMera, visible imager for navigation.

They will gather measure about geology, chemical composition, color, physical properties, shapes, masses as well as to look for moons and rings during each fast flyby.

Up close look at High Gain Antennae (HGA) on NASA Lucy asteroid explorer spacecraft positioned between the two payload fairing halves of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket as seen on Sept. 29, 2021 at Astrotech Space Operations Center, Titusville, FL. Liftoff targeted for Oct. 16, 2021 from pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

 

Southwest Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado is the principal investigator institution for the Lucy Mission and will lead the science investigation. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland will provide overall mission management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, Colorado will build the spacecraft.

 

Dr. Ken Kremer of Space UpClose visiting NASA Lucy asteroid explorer spacecraft as seen on Sept. 29, 2021 at Astrotech Space Operations Center, Titusville, FL. Liftoff targeted for Oct. 16, 2021 from pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Ken Kremer interview on ‘Stay Curious’ space show  Oct 6 at the American Space Museum, Titusville, Florida.

 

Ken will be onsite at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for reporting about the Lucy mission

Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Lucy Asteroid mission, Blue Origin and Space Tourism, SpaceX Cargo and Crew Dragons, Artemis and NASA missions, SLS, Orion, SpaceX  Starlink, Commercial Crew and Starliner and Crew Dragon and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Crew 1 & 2 & 3, ISS, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 Perseverance and Curiosity rovers, NRO spysats and national security missions and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com

Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
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Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events

Please consider supporting Ken’s work by purchasing his photos and/or donating at Patreon:

https://www.patreon.com/kenkremer

 

Dr. Ken Kremer of Space UpClose visiting NASA Lucy asteroid explorer spacecraft as seen on Sept. 29, 2021 at Astrotech Space Operations Center, Titusville, FL. Liftoff targeted for Oct. 16, 2021 from pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

 

Lucy mission Principal Investigator Hal Levison and team from NASA Goddard, Lockheed Martin and Ken Kremer pose with asteroid explorer and payload fairing halves of ULA Atlas V rocket seen on Sept. 29, 2021 at Astrotech Space Operations Center, Titusville, FL. Liftoff set for Oct. 16, 2021 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

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Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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