NASA's Parker Solar Probe Already Hitting Milestones On Journey to Touch the Sun

Monday, 20 August 2018 - 12:55PM
Technology
Solar System
Monday, 20 August 2018 - 12:55PM
NASA's Parker Solar Probe Already Hitting Milestones On Journey to Touch the Sun
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Image Credit: JHU/APL CC BY 2.0

On August 12, NASA launched its Parker Solar Probe into space from Cape Canaveral with a little help from a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. The PSP's mission is to get closer to the Sun than any machine ever has before, and NASA reports that the probe is already racking up milestones along the way.

The first thing the space agency feels is worth applauding is that the day after liftoff, the spacecraft successfully deployed its high-gain antenna to be able to communicate with Earth. According to Space.com, the probe also powered on its Fields Experiment (one of four instrument suites) that same day. "Parker Solar Probe is operating as designed, and we are progressing through our commissioning activities," mission project manager Andy Driesman said in a statement. "The team - which is monitoring the spacecraft 24 hours a day, seven days a week - is observing nominal data from the systems as we bring them on-line and prepare Parker Solar Probe for its upcoming initial Venus gravity assist." 

The probe is traveling at 39,000 miles per hour, and its first Venus flyby is scheduled for October 3 around 4:44am. The gravity assist that Driesman is referring to is a plan for the probe to use the planet to slow itself down and change its trajectory.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

The Parker Solar Probe's first date with the Sun is set for November 5. Over the next seven years there will be 23 other flybys, which will hopefully result in a lot of new, useful data being transmitted back to Earth. The recent milestones are a good sign, because without working equipment the $1.5 billion mission would be a total bust. To stay up-to-date on future milestones and news, keep it locked to Outer Places.

Cover photo credit: JHU/APL CC BY 2.0

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