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.
The primary science goals for the mission are to trace the flow of energy and understand the heating of the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind. Parker Solar Probe provides a statistical survey of the outer corona.
Parker Solar Probe has three detailed science objectives:
|Launch:||August 12, 2018 at 3:31 a.m. EDT (7:31 UTC)|
|Max. Launch C3:||154 km2/s2|
|Launch Vehicle:||Delta IV-Heavy with Upper Stage|
Parker Solar Probe will use seven Venus flybys over nearly seven years to gradually shrink its orbit around the sun, coming as close as 3.83 million miles (and 6.16 million kilometers) to the sun, well within the orbit of Mercury and about seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before.
Parker Solar Probe is a true mission of exploration; for example, the spacecraft will go close enough to the sun to watch the solar wind speed up from subsonic to supersonic, and it will fly through the birthplace of the highest-energy solar particles. Still, as with any great mission of discovery, Parker Solar Probe is likely to generate more questions than it answers.
The plot below shows Parker Solar Probe's location and speed (relative to the Sun) as it conducts its science operations. The spacecraft is in a highly elliptical orbit around the Sun (the yellow dot at the center of the plot), reaching its aphelion during the course of the mission initially at Earth and eventually closing to the orbit of Venus. Parker Solar Probe will perform seven Venus flybys in order to more precisely set its trajectory toward the Sun; these flybys will slow the spacecraft down, instead of speeding it up, which is a more common use for planetary flybys.
Reading this chart:
Speed in relation to the Sun; given in kilometers per second. One kilometer per second equals 0.62 miles per second, or 2,237 miles per hour.
This stands for Astronomical Unit, which is the distance from the Sun to the Earth, and one AU equals about 93 million miles or just under 150 million kilometers.
This stands for Solar Radius, or the distance from the center of the Sun to its surface, which is about 432,000 miles or 696,000 kilometers.
Parker Solar Probe will be a historic mission, flying into the sun's atmosphere (or corona) for the first time. Coming closer to the sun than any previous spacecraft, Parker Solar Probe will employ a combination of in situ measurements and imaging to achieve the mission's primary scientific goal: to understand how the sun's corona is heated and how the solar wind is accelerated. Parker Solar Probe will revolutionize our knowledge of the origin and evolution of the solar wind.
Mission duration: 6 yrs, 11 months
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