Parker Solar Probe completes first Venus flyby: NASA

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has successfully completed flyby of Venus at distance of about 2,415 kilometres during its first gravity assist from planet. These gravity assists will help spacecraft tighten its orbit closer to Sun over course of the mission. The spacecraft in future will be carrying six Venus gravity assists over the course of the seven-year mission.

Parker Solar Probe mission

Parker Solar Probe is mankind’s first mission to study outer corona of Sun. It was successfully launched in August 2018 for unprecedented seven-year long journey to unlock mysteries of Sun’s fiery outer atmosphere and its effects on space weather. It is designed and built by NASA’s Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. It is named after solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker, making it first spacecraft of NASA to be named after living person.
Scientific goals

  • Determine structure and dynamics of magnetic fields at sources of solar wind.
  • Trace flow of energy that heats corona and accelerates solar wind.
  • Determine what mechanisms accelerate and transport energetic particles.
  • Explore dusty plasma near Sun and its influence on solar wind and energetic particle formation.

Parker Solar Probe will explore Sun’s outer atmosphere and make critical observations to answer questions about physics of stars. Its data will also be useful in improving forecasts of major eruptions on Sun and subsequent space weather events that impact technology on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space.
The probe is designed to endure harsh environment near Sun, by approaching within 8.5 solar radii (5.9 million kilometers) to ‘surface’ (photosphere) of Sun where incident solar intensity is approximately 520 times intensity at Earth orbit. It will have mission life of seven-year.
It is fitted with thermal protection system (TPS) or heat shield made of reinforced carbon-carbon composite that will allow it to survive temperatures in Sun’s corona. It main systems and scientific instruments are located in central portion of shield’s shadow, where direct radiation from Sun is fully blocked.

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