About an hour after launch Saturday, NASA’s Lucy spacecraft will start the delicate process of opening its circular, fan-shaped solar arrays — the largest ever on a deep space probe — to power the asteroid explorer’s 12-year journey into the outer solar system. When it reaches the apex of its interplanetary orbital arc, the Lucy mission will become the most distant spacecraft to ever use solar power, breaking the record set by NASA’s Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter. Lucy will fly by eight asteroids during its mission, including seven objects in the Trojan swarms that lead and trail Jupiter in its orbit around the sun. The mission is the first to explore the Trojan asteroids, which scientists say are leftover building blocks similar to objects that came together to form the solar systems giant outer planets. To get there, Lucy will rely on a few engineering innovations. “The most obvious feature that we have on Lucy is our gigantic, amazing solar array wings,” said Katie Oakman, structures mechanisms lead for the Lucy mission at Lockheed Martin,
Set for launch Oct. 16 on a flight to explore asteroids in the outer solar system, NASA’s Lucy spacecraft has been fueled and encapsulated inside the payload fairing of its Atlas 5 rocket. Watch as Chris McCaa, a manager from spacecraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin, points out some of the features of the probe.