Simulated Space: Parker Solar Probe Enters Thermal Vacuum Testing

Posted on 01/17/2018 17:30:25

On Wednesday, Jan. 17, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe was lowered into the 40-foot-tall thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The spacecraft will remain in the chamber for about seven weeks, coming out in mid-March for final tests and packing before heading to Florida. Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on July 31, 2018, on a Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle.

The thermal vacuum chamber simulates the harsh conditions that Parker Solar Probe will experience on its journey through space, including near-vacuum conditions and severe hot and cold temperatures.

“This is the final major environmental test for the spacecraft, and we’re looking forward to this milestone,” said Annette Dolbow, Parker Solar Probe’s integration and test lead from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, which designed, built, and will manage the mission for NASA. “The results we’ll get from subjecting the probe to the extreme temperatures and conditions in the chamber, while operating our systems, will let us know that we’re ready for the next phase of our mission – and for launch.”

During thermal balance testing, the spacecraft will be cooled to -292 degrees Fahrenheit (-180 Celsius). Engineers will then gradually raise the spacecraft’s temperature to test the thermal control of the probe at various set points and with various power configurations.

Next, thermal cycling testing will transition the spacecraft from cold to hot and back again several times, simulating the conditions it will experience during its mission to the Sun. The Parker Solar Probe team will also test operation of the spacecraft’s hardware at both hot and cold plateaus, as well as perform a mission simulation.


Member of the NASA Parker Solar Probe team wheel the spacecraft – bagged to protect it from contamination – from its cleanroom at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., to the thermal vacuum chamber, where it will undergo approximately seven weeks of testing at extreme temperatures that will simulate the space environment.

Member of the NASA Parker Solar Probe team wheel the spacecraft – bagged to protect it from contamination – from its cleanroom at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., to the thermal vacuum chamber, where it will undergo approximately seven weeks of testing at extreme temperatures that will simulate the space environment.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman
High-Res Image

Parker Solar Probe is slowly lifted and carried to the top of the thermal vacuum chamber, which will simulate the airless environment of space, in addition to conducting intense hot and cold temperature testing.

Parker Solar Probe is slowly lifted and carried to the top of the thermal vacuum chamber, which will simulate the airless environment of space, in addition to conducting intense hot and cold temperature testing.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman
High-Res Image

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe descends into the thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The spacecraft will be inside the chamber for about seven weeks.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe descends into the thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The spacecraft will be inside the chamber for about seven weeks.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman
High-Res Image

Engineers and technicians from the Parker Solar Probe team monitor the descent of the spacecraft into the thermal vacuum chamber.

Engineers and technicians from the Parker Solar Probe team monitor the descent of the spacecraft into the thermal vacuum chamber.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman
High-Res Image

Parker Solar Probe team members begin the process of reattaching the spacecraft to power and other systems in preparation for testing the operation of the probe in intense heat and cold while in an airless environment.

Parker Solar Probe team members begin the process of reattaching the spacecraft to power and other systems in preparation for testing the operation of the probe in intense heat and cold while in an airless environment.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman
High-Res Image


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