The Mission


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

The MissionScience Objectives

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

  • Measurements from within the region where all the action happens
  • On the final three orbits, Parker Solar Probe will fly to within 9 solar radii of the sun's "surface" 9 solar radii is 9 times the radius of the sun, or about 3.83 million miles. That is about seven times closer than the current record-holder for a close solar pass, the Helios spacecraft.
  • At closest approach, Parker Solar Probe will be hurtling around the sun at approximately 430,000 miles per hour! That's fast enough to get from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in one second.
  • At closest approach to the sun, while the front of Parker Solar Probe' solar shield faces temperatures approaching 1,400° Celsius, the spacecraft's payload will be near room temperature.

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:

The MissionLaunch

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.

Credit: ULA

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

The MissionJourney to 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. To get there, it takes an innovative route.

  • Launch: August 12, 2018 at 3:31 a.m. EDT (7:31 UTC)
  • Venus Flyby: Oct. 3, 2018 at 4:44 a.m. EDT (08:44 UTC)
  • First Perihelion: Nov. 5, 2018 at 10:27 p.m. EST (Nov. 6, 2018 at 03:27 UTC)

Trajectory Design

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.

  • 24 Orbits
  • 7 Venus gravity assist flybys

Final Solar Orbits

At closest approach, Parker Solar Probe will be hurtling around the sun at approximately 430,000 miles per hour! That's fast enough to get from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in one second.

  • Closest approach: 3.83 million miles
  • Speed ~430,000 miles per hour (~125 miles per second)
  • Orbit period: 88 days

The MissionWhere is Parker Solar Probe?

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:

Heliocentric velocity:
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.

AU:
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.

RS:
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.

The MissionTimeline

It has been nearly 60 years since the "Solar Probe" Concept was introduced. . . We are on our way!

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


2016

May: System Integration Review

July: KDP-D

Successfully passed KDP-D on 7 July 2016


July: Start of Integration and Testing

Integration and test formally started on 1 July 2016 with delivery of the flight structure with the integrated Propulsion Subsystem.



The MissionTeam

NASA Parker Solar Probe Mission Management

Parker Solar Probe Program Executive
Joseph Smith (HQ)
Parker Solar Probe Program Scientist
Arik Posner (HQ)
LWS Program Manager
Nick Chrissotimos (Goddard Space Flight Center)
LWS Deputy Program Manager
Mark Goans (GSFC)
Parker Solar Probe Mission Scientist
Adam Szabo (GSFC)

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory Parker Solar Probe Project Management

Space Department Head
Michael Ryschkewitsch
Civil Space Mission Area Executive
Patrick Binning (acting)
Civil Space Program Area Manager
Richard Fitzgerald
Parker Solar Probe Project Manager
Andrew Driesman
Deputy Project Manager
Patrick Hill
Deputy Project Manager for Instruments
Kim Cooper
Project Scientist
Nour Raouafi
Deputy Project Scientist
Rob Decker
Mission System Engineer
Jim Kinnison
Spacecraft System Engineer
Robin Vaughan
Mission Design and Navigation Manager
Yanping Guo
Mission Operations Manager
Nicholas Pinkine
Engagement and Communications Lead
Kerri Beisser
Public Affairs Lead
Geoff Brown

Parker Solar Probe Instrument Principal Investigators

Fields Experiment (FIELDS)
Stuart Bale (University of California, Berkeley)
Integrated Science Investigation of the sun (IS☉IS)
David McComas (Princeton University)
Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons (SWEAP) Investigation
Justin Kasper (University of Michigan)
Wide-field Imager for Solar PRobe (WISPR)
Russell Howard (Naval Research Laboratory)
Heliospheric Origins with Solar Probe Plus (HeliOSPP)
Marco Velli (University of California, Los Angeles)
NASA Logo Parker Solar Probe Logo

© 2018 The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory LLC. All rights reserved.
Privacy Notice/Legal Disclaimer
11100 Johns Hopkins Road, Laurel, Maryland 20723
240-228-5000 (Washington, DC, area) • 443-778-5000 (Baltimore area)