Illustrated spacecraft close to the Sun.

Artist's concept of the Parker Solar Probe observing the Sun. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

Parker will fly through the Sun’s atmosphere more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before.

Nation United States of America (USA)
Objective(s) Solar Orbit
Spacecraft Parker Solar Probe (Solar Probe Plus)
Spacecraft Mass 1,510 pounds (685 kilograms) at launch
Mission Design and Management NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Launch Vehicle Delta IV-Heavy with Upper Stage
Launch Date and Time Aug. 12, 2018 / 7:31 UTC)
Launch Site Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Scientific Instruments 1. Fields Experiment (FIELDS)
2. Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun (IS☉IS ​)
3. Wide Field Imager for Solar PRobe (WISPR)
4. Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons (SWEAP)

Parker Solar Probe will perform its scientific investigations in a hazardous region of intense heat and solar radiation. The spacecraft will fly close enough to the Sun to watch the solar wind speed up from subsonic to supersonic, and it will fly though the birthplace of the highest-energy solar particles.

At closest approach, Parker Solar Probe hurtles around the Sun at approximately 430,000 mph (700,000 kph). That's fast enough to get from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in one second.

To perform these unprecedented investigations, the spacecraft and instruments will be protected from the Sun’s heat by a 4.5-inch-thick (11.43 cm) carbon-composite shield, which will need to withstand temperatures outside the spacecraft that reach nearly 2,500 F (1,377 C).

A 3D model of NASA's Parker Solar Probe. Credit: NASA Visualization Technology Applications and Development (VTAD) › Download Options

The Science of the Sun

The primary science goals for the mission are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles. Scientists have sought these answers for more than 60 years, but the investigation requires sending a probe right through the 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit heat of the corona. Today, this is finally possible with cutting-edge thermal engineering advances that can protect the mission on its dangerous journey. Parker Solar Probe will carry four instrument suites designed to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind.

Additional Resources

Related News