NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is being readied at one of the NASA’s facilities towards its mission to the sun scheduled to launch on August 04 after years of development, testing, and integration. After extensive testing that was being conducted since fall 2017, The sun-bound probe has finally received its own heat shield which is a colossal eight-foot Thermal Protection Shield which can withstand temperature on an upward of 2,500° Fahrenheit or 1,370° Celsius.
Parker Solar Probe got its swanky new heat shield on June 27 when engineers finally installed this magnum opus fortified shield that will protect the probe from the extreme temperature while allowing the probe to travel within a distance of 4 million miles from the Sun. To put things into perspective, Mercury which is the first planet in our solar system orbits around the Sun maintaining a minimum distance of 29 million miles and yet, it is extremely hot and inhabitable.
Talking about the heat shield, it is an eight foot long and rounded carbon-carbon composite with carbon foam core sandwiched between the two carbon-carbon composite layer. The carbon form core is 4.5-inch thick consisting of 97% air and remaining foam and the entire shield weighs around 160 pounds. Further, NASA formulated a special white coating for the probe that will reflect as much of the Sun’s energy as possible to keep the spacecraft from burning up. While the external temperature soars to upwards of 2,500° F i.e. fiery as hell, the internal temperature will be close to 85° F which is similar to the temperature on a summer day on the Earth.
All these enhancements will prevent the instruments fitted inside the probe from burning so that it can gather data regarding corona or the outer atmosphere of the Sun as well as everything related to the sun while zipping at a speed of 430,000 miles per hour which is even faster than the Voyager 1 & 2 and other spacecraft currently hurtling through the cosmos. To give an idea about its speed, it will travel from Philadelphia to Washington in just one second which is mind-boggling.
NASA has planned to launch the spacecraft on August 04 marking 60 years of space missions to get closer to the Sun – the hottest star in our solar system. The probe will orbit within a distance of just 4 million miles from the Sun which is the closest any man-made object or spacecraft has ever been to the Sun. It is expected to reach to the Sun by later 2024.