On August 12, NASA took a historic step by launching a spacecraft with a mission to ‘Touch the Sky’. The probe was successfully launched on Aug 12 at 3.31 AM. The NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is meant to explore sun’s atmosphere. It will reach the closest to the sun and is considered one of the most powerful rockets in the world.
Yanping Guo of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, who designed the mission trajectory said, “During summer, Earth and the other planets in our solar system are in the most favorable alignment to allow us to get close to the Sun.”
He also told, “The launch energy to reach the Sun is 55 times that required to get to Mars, and two times that needed to get to Pluto.”
The study on the sun is going on for decades, and this launch has proved to be a huge leap for the mankind. However, the question arises that why won’t the spacecraft melt? The explanation to this is that the spacecraft has been designed in a way that it can bear the extreme temperatures. It will travel through material with temperatures greater than several million degree Celsius when it will come across the intense sunlight.
NASA said in a statement, “The key lies in its custom heat shield and an autonomous system that helps protect the mission from the Sun’s intense light emission, but does allow the coronal material to ‘touch’ the spacecraft.”
The probe has a heat shield called as Thermal Protection System (TPS) which is eight feet in diameter and 4.5 inches thick. It is built using a carbon composite foam sandwiched between two carbon plates. NASA said, “Tested to withstand up to 1,650 degrees Celsius, the TPS can handle any heat the Sun can send its way, keeping almost all instrumentation safe.”
Another challenge in front of them was the electronic wiring as most cables would melt after coming in contact with heat radiation of the sun. To tackle this issue, the team grew sapphire crystal tubes to suspend the wiring, and made the wires from the chemical element niobium.
The solar array have a simple cooling system. As per the reports it has “a heated tank that keeps the coolant from freezing during launch, two radiators that will keep the coolant from freezing, aluminium fins to maximise the cooling surface, and pumps to circulate the coolant.”
BBC shared the video yesterday as the Spacecraft was being launched:
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) August 12, 2018
It will give an insight about the physics of the stars, increase understanding of solar wind and also help in forecasting major space weather events.