NASA is preparing for its first ever mission to send a spacecraft to the sun. The historic launch is set to take place this summer, and the robotic probe is expected to provide solar data previously unheard of.
The Parker Solar Probe is designed to hover at a relatively close distance to the sun’s surface, enough to study the outer corona, Tech Times reports. This is humanity’s first solar mission, and the probe is now in Florida to begin final preparations for the launch that is scheduled for July 31.
The solar probe was transported from the Goddard Space Flight Center at around midnight on April 2 to the Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, where it was airlifted by the 436th Airlift Wing of the United States Air Force to Florida’s Space Coast Regional Airport.
The spacecraft arrived in Florida at 10:40 a.m. EDT, and was then moved to Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, where it will complete further testing, final assembly, and attachment to the third stage of the heavy-lift launch vehicle Delta IV.
The probe was taken to a clean room at Astrotech on April 4, removed from its protective shipping container, and put through a series of tests to ensure that nothing had gone amiss during the craft’s transportation.
Andy Driesman from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Parker Solar Probe project manager, said,
This is the second most important flight Parker Solar Probe will make, and we’re excited to be safely in Florida.
Over the next few months, the solar probe will undergo comprehensive testing. Afterwards, a thermal protection system (TPS) will be installed in it — one of its most critical components. The spacecraft will then be fueled.
The TPS is the technology that has made this mission possible, and is crucial to its success. It will allow the solar probe to withstand extreme temperatures.
NASA said, “This mission will provide insight on a critical link in the Sun-Earth connection. Data will be key to understanding and, perhaps, forecasting space weather.”