The first ever NASA mission to send a probe to the sun now prepares for the historic launch expected to happen this summer.
Final Preparations At The Sunshine State
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, the robotic spacecraft designed to study the outer corona at a relatively close distance from the solar surface, and humanity’s first mission to the sun, is now in Florida, to start the final preparations for its launch, which will happen on July 31.
The spacecraft was transported from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center at around midnight on April 2, to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, where it was flown by the 436th Airlift Wing of the United States Air Force to Florida’s Space Coast Regional Airport.
The spacecraft arrived in the Sunshine State at 10:40 a.m. EDT, and was then moved to Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville to undergo further testing, final assembly and mating to the third stage of the heavy-lift launch vehicle Delta IV.
On April 4, the probe was taken to a clean room at Astrotech and removed from its protective shipping container. A series of tests were then conducted to verify that the spacecraft safely made the journey.
“This is the second most important flight Parker Solar Probe will make, and we’re excited to be safely in Florida,” said Parker Solar Probe project manager Andy Driesman, from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. “
The spacecraft will go through comprehensive testing over the next several months. The solar probe will then be installed with the thermal protection system (TPS), one its most critical components, before it will be fueled.
The TPS is the technology crucial to the success of the space probe mission. It will allow the spacecraft to survive extreme temperatures.
Humanity’s First Mission To The Sun
Once launched, the probe will orbit directly through the sun’s upper atmosphere, the corona, closer to the solar surface than any man-made object has even gone.
It will approach within 4 million miles of the sun, facing heat and radiation, to provide new data on solar activity, which could make crucial contributions to mankind’s ability to forecast major space-weather events that can affect life on Earth.
The mission in particular aims to shed light on solar wind, the stream of charged particles from the corona that influence planetary atmosphere and impact space weather near our planet.
“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,” NASA said.