ULA Wins Asteroid Mission Contest

ULA Wins Asteroid Mission Contest

Artistic vision (without scale) of the Lucy spacecraft visiting Trojan asteroids near Jupiter

On January 31, United Launch Alliance (ULA) won a NASA contact to launch a planetary science mission. In October 2021, the Atlas-5 (401) rocket should launch from Florida to launch the Lucy mission. The total cost will be $ 148.3 million.

Lucy is one of NASA’s newest planetary scientific missions, selected in January 2017 at the same time as Psyche’s mission to the eponymous asteroid. During the 12-year flight, the spacecraft will reach the main asteroid belt and visit 6 Trojan asteroids orbiting the Sun in Jupiter’s orbit. Researchers believe that these objects should be perceived as remnants of primitive material from which the solar system originated. NASA is happy that they chose ULA for this mission, since the Atlas-5 rocket is famous for following the schedule, and the complex trajectory provides a narrow launch window.

ULA claims to have received a contract as a tender for an order to launch a mission. February 1 confirmed that the contract is a competitive purchase, but the number of applications and the names of the applicants are not disclosed.

If another company enters the fight for the contract, then most likely it will be SpaceX, which can offer Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy rockets. But company representatives have not yet commented on their possible participation in the Lucy mission.

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