Atlas V 401 to launch LUCY

  • Launch Vehicle: Atlas V 401
  • Mission: LUCY
  • Date / Time: Saturday, October 16, 2021 at (0934 UTC) 0534 EDT
  • Launch Site: SLC-41, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, USA

Launch Vehicle:

Payload Fairing (PLF)

The spacecraft is encapsulated in the 14-ft (4-m) diameter large payload fairing (LPF). The LPF is a bisector (two-piece shell) fairing consisting of aluminum skin/stringer construction with vertical split-line longerons. The vehicle’s height with the LPF is approximately 188 ft (57.3 m).


The Centaur second stage is 10 ft (3 m) in diameter and 41.5 ft (12.6 m) in length. Its propellant tanks are pressure-stabilized and constructed of corrosion-resistant stainless steel. Centaur is a cryogenic vehicle, fueled with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, powered by an RL10C-1 engine producing 22,900 lbs (101.8 kilo-Newtons) of thrust. The cryogenic tanks are insulated with a combination of helium-purged blankets, radiation shields and spray-on foam insulation (SOFI). The Centaur forward adapter (CFA) provides structural mountings for the fault-tolerant avionics system and structural and electrical interfaces with the spacecraft.


The booster is 12.5 ft (3.8 m) in diameter and 106.5 ft (32.5 m) in length. The booster’s tanks are structurally rigid and constructed of isogrid aluminum barrels, spun-formed aluminum domes and intertank skirts. Booster propulsion is provided by the RD-180 engine system (a single engine with two thrust chambers). The RD-180 burns RP-1 (Rocket Propellant-1 or highly purified kerosene) and liquid oxygen and delivers 860,200 lbs (3.83 mega-Newtons) of thrust at sea level. The Centaur avionics system, provides guidance, flight control and vehicle sequencing functions during the booster and Centaur phases of flight.

Mission Overview:

NASA’s Lucy mission is the first space mission to explore a diverse population of small bodies known as the Jupiter Trojan asteroids. These small bodies are remnants of our early solar system, now trapped on stable orbits associated with – but not close to – the giant planet Jupiter.

The Trojan asteroids are in two “swarms” that lead and follow Jupiter in its orbit around the Sun, and are almost as numerous as the objects in the Main Asteroid Belt. Over its 12-year primary mission, Lucy will explore a record breaking number of asteroids, flying by one main belt asteroid and seven Trojan asteroids.

The payload fairing encases LUCY | Photo: ULA

The Lucy mission is named after the fossilized skeleton of an early hominin (pre-human ancestor) that was found in Ethiopia in 1974 and named “Lucy” by the team of paleontologists who discovered it. And just as the Lucy fossil provided unique insights into humanity’s evolution, the Lucy mission promises to revolutionize our knowledge of planetary origins and the formation of the Solar System.

The Lucy mission is a joint mission of NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center, the Southwest Research Institute and NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) based at Kennedy Space Center.

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket at Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station undergoes a Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) in preparation for the launch of NASA’s Lucy mission. | Photo: ULA


The Atlas V 401 rocket is the workhorse of the Atlas V fleet. In its nearly 20 years of service, the 401 has launched a diverse set of missions including national security, science and exploration, commercial and International Space Station resupply.

First Launch: Aug. 21, 2002
Launches to Date: 39

Launch Trajectory

Launch Trajectory of the Atlas V 401 rocket for the LUCY mission | screenshot from Flight Club

Launch Site

Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41), previously Launch Complex 41 (LC-41), is an active launch site at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. As of 2020, the site is used by United Launch Alliance (ULA) for Atlas V launches. Previously, it had been used by the USAF for Titan III and Titan IV launches.

SLC-41 launch pad on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, USA
Bird eye view of SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral SFS, Florida, USA | image: Google Earth

Watch Live

Live Broadcast to commence, closer to launch date.