Spaceflight Insider

Lockheed Martin tapped to build NASA’s Lucy spacecraft

NASA Lucy spacecraft studying Jupiter Trojan asteroids image credit Southwest Research Institute

Lockheed Martin has been selected to produce NASA’s new Lucy spacecraft. (Click for full view) Image Credit: Southwest Research Institute

NASA has recently announced that the U.S. space agency is planning on sending two new Discovery Program missions to investigate leftovers of the formation of the early Solar System. One of these two spacecraft, Lucy, will be built by Lockheed Martin.

Lucy is planned to carry out the first reconnaissance of the Trojan asteroids that orbit near the gas giant Jupiter in tandem with the Sun. NASA hopes to launch this mission as early as 2021 in order to explore six of these tiny worlds.

Lucy will be headed by the Southwest Research Institutes Dr. Harold Levison, with the mission being managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. According to a statement, Lucy has a development cost cap of approximately $450 million.

“This is a thrilling mission as the Jupiter Trojan asteroids have never been studied up close,” Guy Beutelschies, director of Interplanetary Systems at Lockheed Martin Space Systems said via the company-issued release. “The design of the spacecraft draws from the flight-proven OSIRIS-REx spacecraft currently on its way to a near-Earth asteroid. This heritage of spacecraft and mission operations brings known performance, reliability and cost to the mission.”

“This is a unique opportunity,” Levison said. “Because the Trojans are remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets, they hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the Solar System. Lucy, like the human fossil for which it is named, will revolutionize the understanding of our origins.”

If everything goes as advertised in the release, “Lucy will study the geology, surface composition and bulk physical properties of these bodies at close range.”

Lucy’s first target will be an asteroid in the main belt (located between Mars and Jupiter) sometime in the 2025 time frame. Between 2027 and 2033, the probe is planned to study six Jupiter Trojan asteroids. Locked in by the massive world’s substantial gravity, two groups of these rocky worldlets appear to “share” the same orbit as Jupiter (one leading and one following Jupiter).

Jupiter’s orbital period – the planet’s ‘year’ – lasts for some 12 Earth years.

Trojan asteroids are, essentially, the leftovers of the Solar System’s formation. There are two theories of their evolution: (1) they emerged at their present positions at the same time as Jupiter from the protoplanetary disk, or (2) they were captured during planetary migration, according to the Nice model, early in the Solar System’s history.

Lucy is slated to be the seventh Discovery Program mission that Lockheed Martin has been selected to participate in. The prior missions that the Colorado-based aerospace firm has contributed on include Lunar Prospector, Mars Pathfinder, Stardust, Genesis, Grail, and InSight (currently scheduled to launch in May 2018).

NASA describes the Discovery Program missions as being relatively low-cost. This is aided by the fact that their development costs usually are capped. The Discovery Program is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office (for the agency’s Planetary Science Division) located at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

NASA representatives, for their part, expressed enthusiasm for the program as a whole and the Lucy mission in particular.

Lucy will visit a target-rich environment of Jupiter’s mysterious Trojan asteroids, while Psyche will study a unique metal asteroid that’s never been visited before,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate via a release issued by the space agency. “This is what Discovery Program missions are all about – boldly going to places we’ve never been to enable groundbreaking science.”

 

Tagged:

Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

Reader Comments

Amarendra Kumar Das

I am a highly experienced Materials Engineer specialized in High Temperature Ceramics and their composites with metals.
I think Lockheed Martin must have the
facility to produce these types of materials as per requirement of NASA,in order to manufacture different parts/structures/modules for assembly of such spacecrafts/Rockets which are
to be resistant to high temperatures, corrosion,erosion(due to impact,abrasion/friction/oxidation etc.)
I can help Lockheed Martin as well as NASA to develop new materials out of the compositions mentioned above.
I am from India and can move to any location in USA or any other country either on permanent or contract basis to develop these materials.

That sounds amazing. I highly recommend you apply to Lockheed Martin.

That’s a great cover letter you wrote I’m sure someone would take a look at your credentials.

More NASA “space exploration” nonsense, which equals tax payer robbery to pay for this HOAX.

this looks good,

⚠ Commenting Rules

Post Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *