NASA's Parker Solar Probe Completes First Trip Around The Sun

NASA released the following graphic which details Parker Solar Probe's speed distance from the Sun and other key details about the mission as of Jan. 28 2019. Image Credit NASA

NASA released the following graphic which details Parker Solar Probe's speed distance from the Sun and other key details about the mission as of Jan. 28 2019. Image Credit NASA

It is expected to reach the next perihelion, or the closest point to the sun, on April 4.

"It's been an illuminating and fascinating first orbit", said Dr. Andy Driesman, Parker Solar Probe project manager at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

In preparation for the upcoming solar pass, NASA is busily clearing space on the probe's internal solid state drives.

NASA's Parker Solar Probe has reached a major milestone.

The spacecraft officially completed its first orbit on January 19, 2019, with PSP's second of 24 planned orbits now underway. The ultimate goal is to get the probe just 3.83 million miles from the Sun.

NASA's Parker solar surveyor became a record-setter at the beginning of its mission when it took the title of fastest spacecraft in history from the wildly successful New Horizons probe. It has started relaying mountains of data via the Deep Space network - NASA says it has collected more than 17 gigabytes so far.

It's been a while since we last heard from the Parker Solar Probe, the NASA spacecraft voted most likely to end up as a blistered chunk of molten metal.

In addition, the spacecraft is receiving updated positional and navigation information (called ephemeris) and is being loaded with a new automated command sequence, which contains about one month's worth of instructions. The space shuttle will reach 1.5 million miles from the Sun in April during its second rotation, which will be approximately half the distance from 27 million miles from the Sun Helios 2 Sun in 1976. The mission could also eventually provide the answer to why the star's outer atmosphere, the corona, is much hotter than its surface. To keep it in the location it needs to be in to do its job will require a total of seven gravity assist flybys of Venus.

"We've always said that we don't know what to expect until we look at the data", said Project Scientist Nour Raouafi, also of APL.

Illustration of NASA's Parker Solar Probe approaching the Sun. "The data we have received hints at many new things that we've not seen before and at potential new discoveries". However, they were wrong and no spacecraft bear their names.

Why send a probe to the Sun?

The U.S. space agency tapped United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy rocket to do so.

Parker Solar Probe was launched on August 12, 2018, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 37 in Florida.

Jim Sharkey is a lab assistant, writer and general science enthusiast who grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, the hometown of Skylab and Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott. Jim began blogging about science, science fiction and futurism in 2004.Jim resides in the San Francisco Bay area and has attended NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing and the NASA LADEE lunar orbiter launch.

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