NASA’s Parker Solar Probe blasts off on epic journey to ‘touch the Sun’

| August 12, 2018

solar launch

Fox News repotrs NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force station, home of the of the United States Air Force Space Command’s 45th Space Wing, on its historic mission to the Sun. The probe lit up the night sky as it blasted off at 3:31 a.m. EDT.

“It was a very quiet launch countdown, it went off like clockwork,” NASA Launch Director Omar Baez said. “Parker Solar Probe has been one of our most challenging missions to date.”

About four minutes into flight, the Delta IV port and starboard booster engines shut down and separated from the second stage. After second stage engine ignition, the payload fairing also was jettisoned. The second stage main engine cut off and separated.

Shortly afterward, mission managers confirmed that the spacecraft’s solar arrays successfully deployed. The spacecraft, provided by Northrup Grumman, was operating on its own power.

Carried by a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket, Parker lifted off from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 37. The launch had intially been scheduled for early Saturday, but last-minute technical glitches ate away at the launch window, prompting a 24-hour delay.

The $1.5 billion mission will take humanity closer to the Sun than ever before. Parker will be the first spacecraft to fly through the Sun’s corona, the outermost part of the star’s atmosphere. It is expected to reach the Sun in November.
Parker will face “brutal” heat and radiation during an epic journey that will take it seven times closer than the previous closest spacecraft, Helios 2, in 1976

Parker must withstand heat of nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit to complete its audacious mission. To achieve this, the probe will be protected by a special 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield. Safe inside the spacecraft, however, the probe’s payload will be operating at room temperature.

Harnessing Venus’ gravity, Parker will complete seven flybys over seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the Sun. On its closest approach in 2024, the probe will be traveling at approximately 430,000 mph, setting a new speed record for a manmade object.

The Sun’s corona, which can be seen during a total solar eclipse, is usually hidden by the bright light of the star’s surface. The probe, named after pioneering solar physicist Dr. Eugene Parker, will provide a wealth of invaluable data.
Scientists expect to shed new light on the Sun’s potential to disrupt satellites and spacecraft, as well as electronics and communications on Earth.

Instruments on board Parker will study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles as well as imaging solar wind, a flow of ionized gases that stream past the Earth at more than a million miles an hour.

Eugene Parker first theorized the existence of the solar wind. To honor his contribution to science, the probe is NASA’s first spacecraft to be named after a living person.

The probe, which was designed and built by the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, is also carrying more than 1.1 million names to the Sun. In March, members of the public were invited to be a part in the historic mission by submitting their names to be placed on a memory card that the spacecraft will take into space. In May, NASA confirmed that, over a seven-week period a total of 1,137,202 names were submitted.

Parker Solar Probe is the fourth mission this year for NASA’s Launch Services Program, which is responsible for launch service acquisition, integration, analysis and launch management for each mission. It’s good to be back.

Category: It's science!

Comments (27)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Ex-PH2 says:

    I am glad to see that Cape Canaveral is being used properly again. Truly glad.

    Now can we get some of our astronauts up there again soon?

    • Instinct says:

      Just as soon as they finish Space Shuttle Door Gunner training for Space Force.

    • gitarcarver says:

      Cape Canaveral AFS never stopped launches. Even after the end of the shuttle program, there were launches for commercial satellites, military satellites, classified satellites, supplies to the ISS, etc. that continued.

      So I am not sure what “being used again properly” means.

      The sun probe got a lot of publicity, but the other 3 launches within a month surrounding the sun probe didn’t get as much. It kind of makes you think that the space program and launches need better and more publicity.

  2. Stacy0311 says:

    Good thing they launched at night. No way it would make it to the sun during daylight…

    • HMC Ret says:

      Probably have to make the closest approach to the sun at night, also. I imagine it’s hot as hell during the day. They should be safe at night, though.

    • 26Limabeans says:

      They should do it during an eclipse.

    • BigJohn says:


    • desert says:

      This is the top of the list for the STUPIDEST WASTE OF TAXPAYER MONEY OF ALL TIME! Fly a multimillion dollar piece of equipment into the sun to be burnt up? WHAT freaking IDIOT came up with that one?

  3. 26Limabeans says:

    “the probe will be protected by a special 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield”

    Is it ribbed?

  4. 26Limabeans says:

    “Probe to mission control….I’m in hot”

    • HMCS(FMF) ret says:

      Mission Control to Probe: “How hot is it?”

      Probe to Mission Control: “It’s hotter than a snake’s ass in a wagon rut!”

  5. Ex-PH2 says:

    I hope this doesn’t mean we’ll have another cold winter.

  6. Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

    The technology to do this stuff is really amazing. Nice write up AW1.

  7. Roh-Dog says:

    2.2 M lbsf of thrust in those Delta IV(H), that’s a lot of go.
    -insert joke about fat and lazy ex-wife here-

  8. jonp says:

    1st Pollack: Hey, I hear we are landing a person on the sun!
    2cd Pollack: What are you talking about? It’s too hot there.
    1st Pollack: Ahhh…We are sending him at night!

  9. Inbred Redneck says:

    Seems to me that the headline at the local paper’s site said that there was a “Solar Probe Launched to Sun” as opposed to, I guess, a digital probe headed to Uranus.

  10. 5th/77thFA says:

    I heard Ex-PH2’s eyes roll on all of those.

  11. Docduracoat says:

    Everyone neglects to mention the fact that the high tech heat shield is painted white