Science

NASA to launch solar probe that will study the sun's atmosphere

NASA to launch solar probe that will study the sun's atmosphere

"We're going to be very, very close". The launch window opens at 3:45 a.m. on Saturday. According to Alex Young, a NASA Heliophysicist, "Parker has got a suite of instruments that are measuring particles".

To get to the sun, the probe must be launched with a massive rocket, so that it will be lifted quickly from Earth.

"The Sun's energy is always flowing past our world and even though the solar wind is invisible, we can see it encircling the poles as the aurora, which are attractive - but reveal the enormous amount of energy and particles that cascade into our atmosphere".

The car-sized satellite will be carried by a Delta-IV Heavy rocket, one of the tallest rockets launched into space since the Saturn V carried humans to the moon, and it will push the probe to the fastest speeds ever achieved by a human-made object, ultimately reaching 430,000 miles per hour.

Designed at Johns Hopkins University, the Solar Parker Probe will depart on the 11th from Cape Canaveral (the main center of US space activities) on a mission that will last seven years and analyze the solar wind.

It will hitch a ride through the atmosphere before being blasted into deep space by the Delta IV Heavy rocket.




At first, the solar probe will make a quick stop around Venus on October 2, for a gravity-assist maneuver that will help it adjust its course toward the sun.

Cutting-edge thermal engineering advances allowed the creation of a 4.5-inch thick, 8-foot diameter carbon shield that protects the spacecraft and its instruments against the heat and energy of the sun's outer atmosphere, the corona, through which the spacecraft will fly.

McComas plans to be at Cape Canaveral for the launch of the Parker Space Probe.

The Parker Solar Probe sits in a clean room on July 6, 2018, at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida, after the installation of its heat shield. This means that if it doesn't launch on the 11th, there will be other opportunities for launch up until August 23.

Thomas Zurbuchen, from NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said: "By studying our star, we can learn not only more about the Sun".

This "sizzling" mission aims to reveal the secrets of the corona and figure out why the sun's atmosphere becomes hotter farther away from its surface.