Trojan Mission Lucy Tested its Solar Panels for the First Time. Those Things are Huge
Space missions often have to go where the sun don’t shine. Or at least where it shines very faintly. That is particularly important if the mission draws its power from the sun. Luckily, engineers have a way of dealing with that problem – just make really really big solar panels. That is exactly what they did for Lucy, a mission to visit the Trojan asteroids around Jupiter. Those sails have now been tested on the ground, and they are magnificent.
When fully deployed, Lucy’s solar panels are 7.3 meters in diameter, but only 10 cm thick. While being tested in a thermal vacuum chamber at the Lockheed Martin Space facility where the mission is being built, the test team had to build a weight offloading system to make sure the panels didn’t collapse upon themselves.
NASA Video describing the Lucy mission.
Credit: NASA Goddard YouTube Channel
The panels should be able to support themselves while on the mission, and will be used to generate about 500 watts of power when out past Jupiter’s orbit. This is about the equivalent power consumption of a standard washing machine.