NASA is wrapping up the final tasks that must be completed ahead of the Lucy mission launch scheduled for October, the space agency has announced. The Lucy mission has been a work-in-progress for some time now, but the rewards for this effort are nearer than ever. NASA plans to launch the Lucy spacecraft on October 16, sending it off on a mission to study eight never-before-seen Trojan asteroids around Jupiter.
With all the other prep work out of the way, NASA says the team is preparing to put Lucy in its capsule for launch. This will be the first spacecraft to visit the Trojan asteroids, which both lead and follow Jupiter as it moves around the Sun. It has taken the last eight weeks to prep Lucy for its launch next month, including testing its various electrical, mechanical, and thermal systems, as well as practicing the launch sequence we’ll see on October 16.
The mission is a promising one that will, hopefully, help shed light not only on the origins of the Trojan asteroids but also how the planets in our solar system formed long ago. The spacecraft is equipped with massive solar arrays to power its instruments, while recently added fuel — about 1,600lbs of it — will propel Lucy to its destination.
Once fully encapsulated, Lucy will be shuttled to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V 401 rocket will send Lucy to space, something that will — assuming there aren’t any delays — happen around 5:34 AM ET. As with other launches, it is possible weather issues could bump the event to the next day.
Lucy was built by Lockheed Martin as the 13th spacecraft under NASA’s Discovery Program. Among other things, Lucy will be notable as the first spacecraft to make multiple circles back near Earth as part of its mission, something intended to give it “gravity assists.”