NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is now ready to embark on its journey to the sun.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is just a step away from bringing to life its longtime dream of “touching the sun.” The ambitious mission will bring the space agency’s Parker Solar Probe within 3.83 million miles of the sun’s surface; the closest to the star any human-made spacecraft has ever attempted to reach.
The U.S. space agency has scheduled PSP to be launched tomorrow, August 11th, at 3:33 A.M. EDT from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The only lingering concern right now for the PSP mission team is the weather. Air Force weather officer Kathy Rice said that there’s about a 70 percent chance that the weather tomorrow will cooperate.
What worries the staff is the possibility of thunderstorms which are common during summer in Florida. Rice further said that local personnel would monitor any potential risk that the launch itself will trigger any lightning strikes.
The Parker Solar Probe will ride atop one of the most powerful space rockets we have today, the Delta 4 Heavy. NASA specifically chose the rocket for this mission as the probe would require a considerable amount of thrust to be ejected out of Earth’s gravitation pull and toward the sun.
The Delta 4 Heavy will help the probe reach its speed goal of 53,000 mph by firing three different rockets one after another. It will reportedly send the probe toward Venus, which PSP will fly past seven times in the next six years. After this, the strong gravitation field of Venus is expected to absorb the probe’s sideways motion, sending it closer and closer to the hot star.
Should everything go as planned, the solar probe will make its first orbit of the sun by November 2018. By then, the probe will be around 15.4 million miles above the sun’s surface. Then, in December 2024, it will attempt to go as near as 4 million miles of the sun at a speed of nearly 430,000 mph.
KSC will allow a 65-minute launch window for the solar probe. The team’s concern is that the probe might incur damages while flying through the Van Allen belt if the launch happens after the allotted launch window. Another launch window will be opened on Sunday, August 12th at 3:29 A.M. should the probe missed its initial launch window.