MIAMI: A new Nasa mission aims to brush by the sun, coming closer than any spacecraft in history to its scorching heat and radiation in order to reveal how stars are made, the US space agency said on Wednesday.
After liftoff from Kennedy Space Center in Florida in July 2018, the Parker Solar Probe will become the first to fly directly into the sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona.
The plan for the unmanned spacecraft is to orbit within 6.3 million kilometers of the sun’s surface. Temperatures in that region exceed 1,377 Celsius, for which the spacecraft is equipped with a 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield.
The spacecraft will measure plasma waves and high energy particles, and carry a white light imager to capture images of the structures through which it is flying, according to Nicola Fox, mission project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.
Initially called Solar Probe Plus, the mission was renamed after the astrophysicist Eugene Parker, 89, a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago.
A 20-day launch window for the spacecraft’s liftoff atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket opens on July 31, 2018.