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Parker Solar Probe

Latest News

New Launch Readiness Date for Parker Solar Probe: August 4, 2018

NASA and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory are now targeting launch of the agency’s Parker Solar Probe spacecraft no earlier than Aug. 4, 2018. Originally scheduled to launch on...

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Launch Window: August 4-19, 2018

This Week in Integration & Test

Timelapse video of the lift of NASA's Parker Solar Probe onto the mass properties table, where testing...

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Featured Video:
Parker Solar Probe: Women on a Mission

We celebrated Women's History Month with a look at a group of women from the...

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Solar 60:
Solar 60: Fault Management and Autonomy on Parker Solar Probe

Evan Smith, fault management test lead, and Sanae Kubota, fault management lead...

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The Mission

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


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.

Spacecraft

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 3.9 million miles (6.2 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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Ram Facing View

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Concept of Operations

Diagram of concept of operation of the Parker Solar Probe Spacecraft

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Latest News

Parker Solar Probe

New Launch Readiness Date for Parker Solar Probe: August 4, 2018 »

Posted on 06/15/2018 15:21:37

NASA and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory are now targeting launch of the agency’s Parker Solar Probe spacecraft no earlier than Aug. 4, 2018. Originally scheduled to launch on July 31, additional time is needed to accommodate further software testing of spacecraft systems.


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Hot Shots

Evan Smith, fault management test lead, and Sanae Kubota, fault management lead engineer - both of Johns Hopkins APL - discuss how Parker Solar Probe's team ensures the spacecraft can protect itself while on its historic mission to the Sun. This includes simulations of potential issues that could possible arise during the mission to make sure the team and the spacecraft are ready for launch.

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Timelapse video of the lift of NASA's Parker Solar Probe onto the mass properties table, where testing on verifying the spacecraft's center of gravity and other physical properties. Recorded on June 14, 2018, at Astrotech Space Operations.

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