Oct. 16, 2021 - NASA launched the Lucy spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on October 16, 2021. Lucy is the first mission to study the Jupiter Trojan asteroids up close, and it is enabled by an extensive suite of Aerojet Rocketdyne propulsion on both the launch vehicle and spacecraft.
“Not only did our engines help launch Lucy on its 4-billion-mile venture into deep space, they will also enable the spacecraft’s 12-year journey to explore eight different asteroids,” said Aerojet Rocketdyne Space Business Unit Senior Vice President Jim Maser. “It speaks volumes about our flight-proven systems to be selected as the sole propulsion provider for the Lucy spacecraft that will enable it to follow its complex path to visit two clusters of Trojan asteroids and one main belt asteroid.”
Trojan asteroids share the same orbit as Jupiter and may hold vital clues that would help scientists better understand the history of the solar system, and perhaps even the origins of organic material on Earth.
The ULA Atlas V launch vehicle employed a single RL10 main engine on the Centaur upper stage provided by the company’s West Palm Beach, Florida, facility. Twelve reaction control system thrusters manufactured at the company’s Redmond, Washington, facility provided the Centaur upper stage with yaw, pitch and roll control. There were also six high-pressure helium tanks throughout the first and second stages of the Atlas V built by Aerojet Rocketdyne’s subsidiary ARDÉ, which is located in Carlstadt, New Jersey.
Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Redmond, Washington, facility provided the engines for the Lockheed Martin-built Lucy spacecraft, which includes eight MR-103J thrusters and six MR-106L thrusters that will steer the spacecraft on its mission trajectory. According to NASA, no other space mission in history has been launched to as many different destinations in independent orbits around our Sun.
NASA’s aim for the Lucy mission is to show us the diversity of primordial bodies in our solar system and provide insights into the origins of Earth. To learn more about the Lucy mission, visit www.nasa.gov/lucy.