NASA is currently working on a spacecraft called Lucy and announced that it has successfully completed a solar panel deployment test. Lucy has completed thermal vacuum testing for each of the solar panels, the final step in inspecting key components in preparation for launch. Lucy is currently set to launch this fall.
Starship It has huge solar panels, and when joined and fully extended, it can cover a five-story building. Spacecraft need such huge solar panels because they will operate further from the sun than any previous solar-powered space mission. Lucy will tour a 12-year tour of the Trojan asteroid belt operating 530 million miles from the Sun beyond the orbit of Jupiter.
With the final solar diffusion test successfully completed, Lucy is at the end of the long road to diffusion. The solar panels were manufactured by Northrop Grumman and will be the only source of power for spacecraft and tools during the 12-year mission. NASA says solar panels should provide about 500 watts of energy, which is the same amount of energy needed to run a washing machine.
Five hundred watts is a modest amount of electricity, but bulky panels are required due to the distance the spacecraft will operate from the sun. NASA says the panels will need to be flawlessly deployed in space about an hour after the spacecraft’s launch. Solar panel deployment tests were conducted between December 2020 and February 2021 in a thermal vacuum chamber at the Lockheed Martin Space.
When the solar panels were folded, they were only four inches thick, and once expanded, each solar panel is about 24 feet in diameter. While there is gravity, solar panels cannot bear the weight of 170 pounds each, so a precise weight-off device is used inside the test chamber for support.