NASA poised to launch first Sun-skimming spaceship

11 Août, 2018, 04:27 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Parker Solar Probe plaque

"The Parker Solar Probe will travel through the sun's atmosphere, closer to the surface than any spacecraft before it, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions", NASA said on its website.

The Parker Solar Probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker, will, as the USA space agency describes it, "touch the sun" as it flies within 3.9 million miles of the star's surface. This allows for the shields, place on the back and front of the Parker Solar Probe, to be light while also meaning that there is not much material for heat to travel through allowing it to cool of quickly.

The Solar Probe will have a 65-minute launch window. The launch window for the mission was extended last week to August 23 if delayed.

The mission is scheduled to launch Saturday at 2:33 a.m. on a Delta IV rocket.

How will NASA attempt to "Touch the Sun"? The spacecraft eventually will run out of fuel and, no longer able to keep its heat shield pointed toward the sun, will burn and break apart - except perhaps for the rugged heat shield.

This heat protection will always be pointed towards the star, which will be ensured by small sensors.

It's created to take solar punishment like never before, thanks to its revolutionary heat shield that's capable of withstanding 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,370 degrees Celsius). Spike Aerospace is hoping to do just that ahead of rivals NASA and Virgin Airlines.

An artist rendition of NASA's Parker Solar Probe observing the Sun.

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A wide-field imager will photograph jets nursing from the Sun's corona, the aura surround it.

It will also help scientists understand the history of the sun and solar winds. With each orbit it will push closer and closer to the sun, ultimately circling the star at a distance of less than 10 radii.

Each orbit will take 88 days, meaning the mission will take until late 2025.

In fact, the spacecraft will be able to develop speeds of up to 430,000 miles an hour and will become the "fastest human object ever built", said project researcher Nicky Fox of John Hopkins University.

"The Sun's energy is always flowing past out world..."

According to NASA, PSP will carry four groups of instruments created to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles and imagine the solar wind.

NASA's robotic craft was named in honour of American physicist Eugenie Parker.

The spacecraft holds photos of Parker as well as a copy of his 1958 research paper on what he termed solar wind.

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