The probe that will “touch” the Sun. NASA’s long-awaited mission launches

The probe that will “touch” the Sun. NASA’s long-awaited mission launches

NASA has scheduled the launch of the Parker Solar Probe mission to “touch the Sun” for Saturday, August 11. The probe during its closest approach will be at a distance of just six million kilometers from our star – at the very edge of the Sun’s corona. It is eight times closer than any previous space vehicle has reached.

If the weather doesn’t get in the way, the Parker Solar Probe will launch at 9:33 a.m. on August 11 from Cape Canaveral aboard a ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket. The probe is expected to reach as far as the solar corona, but will hook into the orbits of Venus and Mercury along the way. The probe will reach closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history.

– Eight long years of hard work by countless engineersoin and scientistsow will finally have swoj final – said Adam Szabo, a scientist on the Parker Solar Probe mission at the Flight Centeroat Space Goddard in Greenbelt.

„First Mission to Touch the Sun” – This is how NASA last May announced an expedition to the Sun. But „touching a star is not an easy task. The Sun is a huge, burning, hot ball of plasma, whichora generates strong magnetic fields and can unleash a deadly blast of particles in the blink of an eye. Robustly, the mission was named Solar Probe Plus, but in honor of astrophysicist Eugene’a Parker, has been renamed the Parker Solar Probe.

The probe is the size of a small car and weighs just over 600 kilogramsow. – It’s a relatively lightweight spacecraft, and it needs to be that way because it takes a huge amount of energy to get into close orbit wokoł Sun – admitted Andy Driesman, the mission’s project manager from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.

The mission is planned for seven years. During this time, the probe will complete 24 wok orbitsoł of our star. Flying to its destination, it is expected to set the speed record for the fastest spacecraft in history. The probe’s speed will be nearly 700,000 kilometersow per hour. During the closest approach it will be at a distance of 6.4 millionoin a kilometerow from the Sun – it close enough to study the star’s mysterious atmosphere, solar wind and other features of the Sun.

The probe will fly into an area of space thatory has so far not been explored. NASA experts are confident there will be some surprises. The spacecraft will face tremendous radiation and high temperatures of up to 1,400 st. Celsius – is roughly what it takes to melt steel. Therefore, the construction of the spacecraft was crucial for the instruments and sensors inside the probe to fulfill their function.

Orbital path, whichorima the Parker Solar Probe will have to traverse, fot. Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

The shield protecting it from the infernal heat was created from an 11.5 centimeter layer of compositeoin carbon. It will enable the probe to carry out its mission. The vehicle will also have a special cooling system to ensure the temperature of the sensors, at whichorej will be able to work.

The probe is to study the outer layers of the Sun’s atmosphere. Researchers hope to better understand the physical phenomena occurring around theoł stars. They also want to explain the mechanisms of heating of the solar corona, ktora has a temperature of over dwoch millionoin st. Celsius, while the surface is less than six thousand st. Celsius.

Researchers want to roalso explore the detailedoły regarding the solar wind – A plasma jet consisting of a protonow, electronow and alpha particles. Researchers don’t know how solar wind ions are accelerated. With this knowledge, it will be possible to forecast the Sun’s activity more accurately, and thus make better predictions „space weather”, ktora has implications for the efficient operation of satellitesow or safety flightoin space, and in drastic cases could have fatal consequences for our civilization.

– NASA planned to send a mission to the solar corona for decades, but we did not have the technology thatora would protect the spacecraft and its equipment from high temperatures. Recent advances in materials science have given us material thatory ideally suited to create a thermal shield for the probe. With these materials, the spacecraft will withstand the extreme heat of our star – noted Szabo.