On Wednesday, Jan. 17, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe was lowered into the 40-foot-tall thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The spacecraft will remain in the chamber for about seven weeks, coming out in mid-March for final tests and packing before heading to Florida.
The thermal vacuum chamber simulates the harsh conditions that Parker Solar Probe will experience on its journey through space, including near-vacuum conditions and severe hot and cold temperatures.
“This is the final major environmental test for the spacecraft, and we’re looking forward to this milestone,” said Annette Dolbow, Parker Solar Probe’s integration and test lead from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, which designed, built, and will manage the mission for NASA. “The results we’ll get from subjecting the probe to the extreme temperatures and conditions in the chamber, while operating our systems, will let us know that we’re ready for the next phase of our mission – and for launch.”
During thermal balance testing, the spacecraft will be cooled to -292 degrees Fahrenheit (-180 Celsius). Engineers will then gradually raise the spacecraft’s temperature to test the thermal control of the probe at various set points and with various power configurations.
To protect NASA’s Parker Solar Probe from the intense heat of the Sun’s atmosphere, scientists and engineers developed a revolutionary Thermal Protection System, or TPS. This heat shield, made of carbon-carbon composite material, will experience temperatures of almost 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,370 Celsius) as the spacecraft hurtles through the solar atmosphere, while keeping the instruments on the spacecraft at approximately room temperature.
The heat shield recently moved from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (APL) in Laurel, Maryland to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt to undergo testing in their large Thermal Vacuum Chamber. The Thermal Vacuum Chamber will simulate the harsh conditions that the heat shield must endure during the mission: This includes the airless vacuum of space along with huge temperature fluctuations between hot and cold as the spacecraft swings past the Sun and back out into space. The TPS’ ability to withstand extreme temperatures has already been proven through testing at other facilities, as the Thermal Vacuum Chamber at Goddard cannot simulate the very high temperatures of the Sun.
A Photo Montage is found here
Parker Solar Probe team members use lasers to ensure that the spacecraft’s solar arrays have survived harsh environmental testing and are operating correctly.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe passed laser illumination testing the week of Nov. 27, 2017. During this test, each segment of the spacecraft’s solar panels was illuminated with lasers to check that they were still electrically connected after the vigorous vibration and acoustic testing completed earlier this fall.
The spacecraft is in the midst of intense environmental testing at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in preparation for its journey to the Sun. These tests have simulated the noise and shaking the spacecraft will experience during its launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, scheduled for July 31, 2018.
Parker Solar Probe’s integration and testing team must check over the spacecraft and systems to make sure everything is still in optimal working condition after experiencing these rigorous conditions – including a check of the solar arrays, which will provide electrical power to the spacecraft.
The rest of the article and video are here.
Members of the integration and testing team roll Parker Solar Probe into the Acoustic Test Chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman
When NASA’s Parker Solar Probe lifts off on top of a Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle in summer 2018, it will undergo both intense vibration from the physical forces of the rocket engines, as well as acoustic effects from the sound of the engines and the rocket going through the atmosphere.
Verifying the spacecraft and its systems are ready for the rigors of launch is one of the most important parts of testing. On Nov. 3, Parker Solar Probe passed vibration testing at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, or APL, in Laurel, Maryland, where it was designed and built. On Nov. 14, the spacecraft successfully completed acoustic testing at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and is now being prepared for further environmental tests.
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Bill Donakowski, mechanical engineer, runner and a quick wit…
Remembering Hall of Fame Distance Runner Bill Donakowski
The University of Michigan cross country and track and field programs are mourning the death of Hall of Famer Bill Donakowski, who passed away Sunday, Oct. 15, at the age of 61.
One of the finest distance runners in the nation and a model student-athlete during his Wolverine career from 1974-78, Donakowski was inducted into the program’s Hall of Fame in 2007.
The Flint native — who also went on to become a renowned aerospace engineer — was at the leading edge of a renaissance in Michigan’s distance running heritage that began in the mid-to-late 1970s, earning three Big Ten individual titles, four All-America awards and a school record at 10,000 meters that remains through the present day as the longest-standing in program history.
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Cards and condolence can be send to:
c/o Mark Donakowski
7897 S Valleyhead Way
Aurora, CO 80016
Engineers and technicians at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab closely monitor vibration testing of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe. The spacecraft is attached to a shaker table, which simulates the intense physical forces of launch and powered flight.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL
To ensure that NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will be able to withstand the physical stresses of launch, engineers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory – where the probe was designed and is being integrated and tested – used a special device called a shaker table to simulate the forces of being hurled into space. The spacecraft successfully passed vibration testing, or “vibe,” as the engineers call it, in late October.
“Our vibration testing uses our 40,000-pound force shaker to simulate many of the dynamic events that occur during launch and powered flight,” said APL’s Dave Persons, Parker Solar Probe lead structural engineer. “By safely simulating that process here in the clean room, we’re able to fully monitor the spacecraft and make sure it’s cleared for flight. During the test, we actively monitored over 300 channels of data.”
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A paper with participation by many members of the NuSTAR X-ray binaries group (and SSL) entitled, “An elevation of 0.1 light-seconds for the optical jet base in an accreting Galactic black hole system” by Gandhi et al. was published in the journal Nature Astronomy this week. The primary result was based on X-ray and optical observations of V404 Cyg, which is an accreting black hole transient that had an extremely bright outburst in 2015. It was found that fluctuations in the optical light from the black hole were delayed by 0.1 seconds relative to the X-ray fluctuations, providing a measurement of the location of the optical emission zone in the jet. The delay was only seen after a plasma jet was detected at radio wavelengths, demonstrating that the optical emission arises from the jet. A news release is available at https://www.nustar.caltech.edu/news/nustar20171030