NASA launches Parker Solar Probe to the Sun

NASA´s Parker Solar Probe launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on August 12 to the Sun where it will undertake a landmark mission to understand the star that makes life on Earth possible, the company said.

Parker Solar Probe is humanity´s first-ever mission into a part of the Sun´s atmosphere called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth.

The probe will transmit its first science observations in December.

The spacecraft lifted off at 3:31 a.m. EDT on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. At 5:33 a.m., the mission operations manager reported that the spacecraft was healthy and operating normally.

The mission´s findings will help researchers improve their forecasts of space weather events, which have the potential to damage satellites and harm astronauts on orbit, disrupt radio communications and, at their most severe, overwhelm power grids.

Throughout its seven-year mission, Parker Solar Probe will make six more Venus flybys and 24 total passes by the Sun, journeying steadily closer to the Sun until it makes its closest approach at 3.8 million miles. At this point, the probe will be moving at roughly 430,000 miles per hour, setting the record for the fastest-moving object made by humanity.

Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA´s Living with a Star program to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. The Living with a Star program is managed by the agency´s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA´s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. APL designed and built, and operates the spacecraft.