Rocket Ride for NASA’s Ambitious Asteroid Lucy Mission Launches to Launch Pad

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – NASA’s newest asteroid probe, named Lucy, left the launch pad today (Oct. 14) ahead of its planned liftoff for Saturday morning.

Just after 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT), the Atlas V rocket built by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) began its 550-meter (1,800-foot) journey from its vertically integrated facility, where it was stacked, to the platform. launch. at Space Launch Complex 41. The launch lasted approximately one hour and left the 188-foot-tall (57.3 m) rocket perched on its platform until launch day. Built by Lockheed Martin, the 3,300-pound (1,500-kilogram) Lucy spacecraft is scheduled for launch on Saturday (October 16), which is the first opportunity in a planned 23-day launch period that will kick off the journey of 12 years of the spaceship. across the solar system.

Lucy will fly through a total of eight different asteroids – seven Trojans, which lie in front of and behind Jupiter in its orbit, and a main belt – to help scientists better understand how the solar system evolved. The researchers believe that the Trojans are perfectly preserved cosmic time capsules and hope their study can shed more light on how the giant planets formed.

Related: NASA’s Daring Asteroid Lucy Mission Is Ready For Launch

On launch day, Lucy will have a 75 minute launch window that opens at 5:34 am EDT (0934 GMT). You will travel into space on one of ULA’s most basic Atlas V rockets, the 401, which is based on a single-engine Centaur upper stage and does not use solid rocket propellants.

Lucy’s rocket was originally intended to carry Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule on an unmanned test flight to the International Space Station, but after crews discovered a valve problem in the capsule’s propulsion system, crews were forced to send the ship back to the factory to fix the problem. ; Now that flight is expected to launch in 2022.

So the rocket was reassigned to Lucy. To support that mission, the ULA teams had to remove the rocket’s two-engine Centaur upper stage, as well as the solid belt-driven rocket boosters that were designed to propel the Starliner capsule into space. A different Centaur upper stage with a single RL10 engine was installed in the first stage of the rocket prior to the integration of the spacecraft.

“It was unfortunate that OFT-2 had problems with its faulty valves at the end of the game,” said Omar Báez, Lucy’s launch director in NASA’s Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center during a pre-game press conference. released on September 28. , we were able to have lemons and make lemonade out of them. “

This mission will mark the 89th launch of an Atlas V rocket and the 100th mission that will fly from the ULA (SLC-41) platform at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Currently, meteorological officials in the 45th space delta predict a 90% chance of favorable launch conditions, with the only cause for concern being the possibility of clusters forming.

Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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