NASA's Parker Solar Probe Hits 1st Deep-Space Milestones On Its Way to the Sun

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Hits 1st Deep-Space Milestones On Its Way to the Sun

NASA Solar Probe Hits 1st Deep-Space Milestones On Its Way to the Sun

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe on its epic sun-studying mission on Aug. 12, 2018, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA

The deep-space journey of NASA’s epic sun-touching mission has began out nicely.

The Parker Solar Probe, which launched early Sunday morning (Aug. 12) from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, is notching flight milestones in accordance to plan, NASA officers mentioned in the present day (Aug. 17).

For instance, the spacecraft deployed its high-gain antenna, which it makes use of to talk with Earth, a day after liftoff. Also, on Aug. 13, the Parker Solar Probe powered up certainly one of its 4 instrument suites — the one often known as the Fields Experiment. [NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Mission to the Sun in Pictures]

In addition, the probe has been utilizing its thrusters to cut back momentum, an exercise designed to stabilize its flight profile, NASA officers mentioned.

“Parker Solar Probe is operating as designed, and we are progressing through our commissioning activities,” mission mission supervisor Andy Driesman, of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, said in a statement.

“The crew — which is monitoring the spacecraft 24 hours a day, seven days per week — is observing nominal information from the programs as we convey them on-line and put together Parker Solar Probe for its upcoming preliminary Venus gravity help,” he added.

A diagram showing the planned path of the Parker Solar Probe's mission.

A diagram exhibiting the deliberate path of the Parker Solar Probe’s mission.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

That Venus flyby will happen on Oct. three, paving the manner for the Parker Solar Probe’s first shut encounter with the solar on Nov. 5.

The $1.5 billion mission will make a complete of 24 shut photo voltaic flybys over the subsequent seven years. And extra Venus gravity assists are coming, too — six extra, in actual fact, after the October encounter. These Venus flybys will assist sculpt and shrink the Parker Solar Probe’s elliptical orbit, serving to it get a lot nearer to our star than any human-made object ever has earlier than. 

During its remaining photo voltaic flyby, for instance, the spacecraft will get inside simply three.83 million miles (6.16 million kilometers) of the solar’s floor. The present close-approach report is 27 million miles (43 million km), set by the German-American Helios 2 mission again in 1976.

The solar’s highly effective gravity will speed up the Parker Solar Probe to record-shattering speeds throughout these encounters. During that remaining photo voltaic flyby, the spacecraft will attain a prime velocity of about 430,000 mph (690,000 km/h). That’s greater than double the present mark, set by NASA’s Juno probe throughout its arrival at Jupiter in July 2016.

The Parker Solar Probe will collect a wide range of information throughout these shut passes, learning the solar’s electrical and magnetic fields and waves and characterizing the charged particles rocketing away from our star, amongst different issues. These observations may assist remedy some long-standing mysteries — why the solar’s outer ambiance, or corona, is a lot hotter than its floor, for instance, and the way the charged particles that make up the photo voltaic wind are accelerated to their excessive speeds.

As of midday EDT (1600 GMT) yesterday (Aug. 16), the Parker Solar Probe was 2.9 million miles (four.7 million km) from Earth and zooming by area at 39,000 mph (63,000 km/h), NASA officers mentioned.

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