Parker Solar Probe

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, the humanity’s first mission to the Sun is all set to be launched on July 31 this year from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It is a seven-year mission, which is undergoing its final preparations. The spacecraft was flown by the US Air Force to Florida, where the space shuttle will continue testing before it eventually undergoes the final assembly and mating to the third stage of the Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle. The spacecraft will orbit directly through the solar atmosphere, known as the corona, after the launch. This will be closer to the surface than any human-made object has ever gone. As for now for coming several months, the spacecraft will undergo comprehensive testing.

The outcome of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe mission:

While facing the brutal heat and radiation of the sun, the mission will reveal:

  • Fundamental science behind what drives the solar wind.
  • The constant outpouring of material from the Sun that shapes planetary atmospheres.
  • Affects space weather near Earth.
  • It will explore the Sun’s outer atmosphere.
  • The mission will make critical observations to answer decades-old questions about the physics of stars.
  • Its data will also be useful in improving forecasts of major eruptions on the Sun.
  • This will also help in determining the subsequent space weather events that impact technology on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space.

One of the most critical elements of the spacecraft – the thermal protection system (TPS) or heat shield – will be installed just prior to being fuelled. TPS is the breakthrough technology. It will allow Parker Solar Probe to survive the temperatures in the Sun’s corona which is just 9.8 million kilometres from the surface of our star.

Parker Solar Probe project manager from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in the US, Andy Driesman was quoted as saying that there are many milestones to come for Parker Solar Probe. The installation of the TPS will be the final major step before encapsulation and integration onto the launch vehicle, Driesman said. He underlined the fact that there is an amazing team of men and women who have worked so diligently to make this mission a reality.

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