Back in mid-March, we posted an article about sending your name to the Sun on the Parker Solar Probe. Have you signed up yet? If not, you better hurry. The probe successfully completed a round of tests mimicking the conditions the spacecraft will face in space throughout its seven-year mission. The testing included checking the spacecraft’s functions under hot and cold extremes, cycling the temperatures in a thermal vacuum chamber back and forth between hot and cold, making sure Parker Solar Probe’s systems and components operate properly.
Parker is now in Titusville, FL where it will go through its final integration and testing at Astrotech Space Operations before launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center this summer. The Parker Solar Probe’s launch window opens on July 31, 2018.
The probe is designed to travel through the Sun’s corona, the outer layer of its atmosphere, at a temperature of 2,500 degrees F, 4 million miles from the Sun’s surface. The shield protecting the four groups of instruments is like nothing designed before. The probe will travel at a speed of about 430,000 mph.
The probe will be launched aboard a Delta IV Heavy rocket, the second largest payload delivery system in the world. Only the new SpaceX Falcon Heavy is larger. The Delta IV uses two liquid fuel boosters and a second stage to achieve orbit. The first stage and two boosters produce 710,000 pounds of thrust each. That’s a lot of horsepower.