Financial terms of the award weren’t disclosed in the Jan. 5 announcement, but the Bethesda, Md.-based company’s work will be part of a NASA development project capped at $450 million. Dubbed Lucy, after an important human fossil, the spacecraft will perform the first reconnaissance of the Jupiter Trojan asteroids orbiting the sun in tandem with the giant gaseous planet.
The Lucy spacecraft will launch in October 2021. NASA’S Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., will manage the mission, with Harold Levison of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., serving as principal investigator. Projects in NASA’s Discovery Program are designed and led by a principal investigator, who assembles the team of project scientists and engineers.
“This is a thrilling mission as the Jupiter Trojan asteroids have never been studied up close,” said Guy Beutelschies, director of Interplanetary Systems at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. “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.”
Lucy will study the geology, surface composition and bulk physical properties of the Trojan asteroids at close range, starting in 2025 through 2033. Scientists believe the Trojans may have been formed outside Jupiter’s orbit in an earlier solar-system era.