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Parker Solar Probe

Latest News

Preparing for Discovery With NASA's Parker Solar Probe

Weeks after Parker Solar Probe made the closest-ever approach to a star, the science data from the first solar encounter is just making its way into the hands of the mission's scientists.

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since launch on August 12, 2018 at 3:31 a.m. EDT (7:31 UTC)

This Week in Integration & Test

Timelapse video of the transport of Parker Solar Probe on July 30, 2018 from Astrotech Space Operations...

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Featured Video:
Venus Flyby 1

Artist rendering of Parker Solar Probe’s first Venus flyby on October 3, 2018....

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Solar 60:
Solar 60: Post-Launch with Project Scientist Nicky Fox

Project Scientist Nicky Fox of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory...

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The Mission

NASA's Parker Solar Probe mission will revolutionize our understanding of the sun

Where is Parker Solar Probe?
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Parker Solar Probe will swoop to within 4 million miles of the sun's surface, facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it. Launching in 2018, Parker Solar Probe will provide new data on solar activity and make critical contributions to our ability to forecast major space-weather events that impact life on Earth.

In order to unlock the mysteries of the corona, but also to protect a society that is increasingly dependent on technology from the threats of space weather, we will send Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun.

In 2017, the mission was renamed for Eugene Parker, the S. Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. In the 1950s, Parker proposed a number of concepts about how stars—including our Sun—give off energy. He called this cascade of energy the solar wind, and he described an entire complex system of plasmas, magnetic fields, and energetic particles that make up this phenomenon. Parker also theorized an explanation for the superheated solar atmosphere, the corona, which is – contrary to what was expected by physics laws -- hotter than the surface of the sun itself. This is the first NASA mission that has been named for a living individual.

The Sun

The sun is a dynamic star.

Why Parker Solar Probe?

We live in the sun's atmosphere! This mission will provide insight on a critical link in the Sun-Earth connection. Data will be key to understanding and, perhaps, forecasting space weather.

We need to go so close because:

  • the corona is unstable, producing the solar wind, flares and coronal mass ejections – we need to study at the source!
  • millions of tons of highly magnetized material can erupt from the sun at speeds of several million miles an hour – fast enough to get from Washington to LA in seconds!

Why is the corona hotter than the surface? Why is there a solar wind?

We can only answer these questions by getting up close and personal with our star

Two views of the sun's atmosphere

The concept for a "Solar Probe" dates back to "Simpson's Committee" of the Space Science Board (National Academy of Sciences, 24 October 1958).

The need for extraordinary knowledge of sun from remote observations, theory, and modeling to answer the questions:

  • Why is the solar corona so much hotter than the photosphere?
  • How is the solar wind accelerated?

The answers to these questions have been of top priority in multiple Roadmaps and Decadal Surveys.

We live in the atmosphere of the sun.

Physics of the corona and inner heliosphere connect the activity of the sun to the environment and technological infrastructure of Earth will:

  • drive the fundamental physics of the heliosphere, aurora, and magnetosphere of Earth and other planets
  • help us improve satellite communications, power grid issues, pipeline erosion, radiation exposure on airline flights, astronaut safety

Until we can explain what is going on up close to the sun, we will not be able to accurately predict space weather effects that can cause havoc at Earth.


Extreme Engineering

Just the facts

NASA selected instrument suites

685 kg max launch wet mass

Reference Dimensions
• S/C height: 3 m
• TPS max diameter: 2.3 m
• S/C bus diameter: 1 m

C-C Thermal protection system

Hexagonal prism s/c bus configuration

Actively cooled solar arrays
• 388 W electrical power at encounter
• Solar array total area: 1.55 m2
• Radiator area under TPS: 4 m2

0.6 m HGA, 34 W TWTA Ka-band science DL

Science downlink rate: 167 kb/s at 1AU

Blowdown monoprop hydrazine propulsion

Wheels for attitude control

NASA's historic Parker Solar Probe (PSP) mission will revolutionize our understanding of the Sun. PSP will swoop closer to the Sun’s surface than any spacecraft before it, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions.

The spacecraft will come as close as 3.83 million miles (and 6.16 million kilometers) to the Sun, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before.

To perform these unprecedented investigations, the spacecraft and instruments will be protected from the Sun’s heat by a 4.5-inch-thick (11.43 cm) carbon-composite shield, which will need to withstand temperatures outside the spacecraft that reach nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,377 degrees Celsius).

Anti-Ram Facing View

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Diagram of Anti-Ram Facing View

Ram Facing View

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Diagram of Ram Facing View

Concept of Operations

Diagram of concept of operation of the Parker Solar Probe Spacecraft

News Center


Latest News

This image from Parker Solar Probe's WISPR (Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe) instrument shows a coronal streamer, seen over the east limb of the Sun on Nov. 8, 2018, at 1:12 a.m. EST. Coronal streamers are structures of solar material within the Sun's atmosphere, the corona, that usually overlie regions of increased solar activity. The fine structure of the streamer is very clear, with at least two rays visible. Parker Solar Probe was about 16.9 million miles from the Sun's surface when this image was taken. The bright object near the center of the image is Mercury (Ed Note: corrected on Dec 13), and the dark spots are a result of background correction.

Preparing for Discovery With NASA's Parker Solar Probe »

Posted on 12/13/2018 09:09:26

Weeks after Parker Solar Probe made the closest-ever approach to a star, the science data from the first solar encounter is just making its way into the hands of the mission's scientists.




How to View the 2017 Solar Eclipse Safely

NEVER look at the sun directly without proper solar glasses or filters -- you can severely damage your eyes.

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Make and Take Activities

Explore UV Light

This activity demonstrates that different materials will block UV rays to different extends. When proper Sun protection is not used, UV can damage our skin and eyes

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Make a Paper Sun

Make this marbled paper that looks just like our sun using shaving cream and food coloring.

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Make a Solar Handprint

In this activity, see for yourself how sunscreen can be used to block the sun's ultraviolet light rays using sunscreen and colored paper.

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Sun Cookies

Use candy pieces and a cookie to make an accurate model of the Sun that you can eat!

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Cereal Box Spectroscope

Make this marbled paper that looks just like our sun using shaving cream and food coloring.

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Space Weather Monitor

Create a magnetometer to monitor changes in the Earth's magnetic field for signs of magnetic storms and explore how forces can act over a distance with a sticky tape static electricty experiment.

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Eclipse Activities

NASA Total Eclipse 2017

Here you will find activities, events, broadcasts, and resources from NASA and our partners across the nation.

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NASA's Eclipse Toolkit

Eclipse Toolkit

You will find a variety of products designed to enhance your knowledge, celebration, and observation of the total solar eclipse.

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NASA's Eclipse Event Map

Eclipse Event Map

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NASA's Eyes on the Eclipse Screenshot

NASA's Eyes on the Eclipse

In this interactive, 3D simulation of the total eclipse of August 21st, 2017, you can see a view of the eclipse from anywhere on the planet.

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