NASA’s Mission to Touch the Sun Arrives in the Sunshine State

A C-17 from the United States Air Force’s 436th Airlift Wing, carrying NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, lands at 10:40 a.m. EDT at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, Florida, on the morning of April 3, 2018. After landing, the spacecraft was unloaded and taken to Astrotech Space Operations, also in Titusville, for pre-launch testing and preparations.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has arrived in Florida to begin final preparations for its launch to the Sun, scheduled for July 31, 2018.
In the middle of the night on April 2, the spacecraft was driven from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to nearby Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. From there, it was flown by the United States Air Force’s 436th Airlift Wing to Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, Florida, where it arrived at 10:40 a.m. EDT. It was then transported a short distance to Astrotech Space Operations, also in Titusville, where it will continue testing, and eventually undergo final assembly and mating to the third stage of the Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle.
Parker Solar Probe is humanity’s first mission to the Sun. After launch, it will orbit directly through the solar atmosphere – the corona – closer to the surface than any human-made object has ever gone. While facing brutal heat and radiation, the mission will reveal fundamental science behind what drives the solar wind, the constant outpouring of material from the Sun that shapes planetary atmospheres and affects space weather near Earth.

Parker Solar Probe: Women on a Mission

We’re celebrating Women’s History Month with a look at a group of women from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab who are key to the success of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, a groundbreaking mission to explore our Sun, scheduled to launch on July 31.

Meet APL’s Nicola Fox, project scientist; Betsy Congdon, lead thermal protection system engineer; Yanping Guo, mission design and navigation manager; and Annette Dolbow, integration and test lead engineer — just a few of the women working to ready the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft for its historic journey to our star.

Learn more at


Send Your Name to the Sun Aboard NASA’s Parker Solar Probe

Want to get the hottest ticket this summer without standing in line?

NASA is inviting people around the world to submit their names online to be placed on a microchip aboard NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe mission launching in summer 2018. The mission will travel through the Sun’s atmosphere, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions — and your name will go along for the ride.

“This probe will journey to a region humanity has never explored before,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This mission will answer questions scientists have sought to uncover for more than six decades.”

Understanding the Sun has always been a top priority for space scientists. Studying how the Sun affects space and the space environment of planets is the field known as heliophysics. The field is not only vital to understanding Earth’s most important and life-sustaining star, it supports exploration in the solar system and beyond.

Parts of the instrument suites on the Parker Solar Probe were made here at SSL.

Send your name to the sun.

THEMIS/ARTEMIS – 11 Years Post Launch

February 17th is the 11 year anniversary of the launch of the Five THEMIS Spacecraft, a two year mission to study space weather.

THEMIS Overview

NASA’s Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) aims to resolve one of the oldest mysteries in space physics, namely to determine what physical process in near-Earth space initiates the violent eruptions of the aurora that occur during substorms in the Earth’s magnetosphere.

THEMIS is a 2-year mission consisting of 5 identical probes that will study the violent colorful eruptions of Auroras.

More about THEMIS and ARTEMIS Mission here


GOLD Successfully Launched as part of SES Communications Satellite

After a successful launch on Thursday, Jan. 25, GOLD is now on its way to providing unprecedented images of the Earth’s ionosphere—the boundary between our planet and space.

Also launching this year is the Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, which will study the ionosphere and neutral upper atmosphere.

But while GOLD flies in geostationary orbit—onboard its host SES Government Solutions communications satellite—more than 22,000 miles above the Western Hemisphere, ICON flies just 350 miles above Earth, where it can gather close-up images of this region.

Together, these missions will provide the most comprehensive ionosphere observations we’ve ever had, enabling a deeper understanding of how our planet interacts with space.

Download this image as a PDF.

Learn more about the collaboration between ICON—led out of UC Berkeley‘s Space Sciences Laboratory—and GOLD—designed and built at the University of Colorado Boulder‘s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics:

(Image credit: NASA Goddard/Mary Pat Hrybyk)

NASA Sun Science
UC Berkeley Space Sciences Lab


The systems engineers successfully established communication with the GOLD instrument and its detector doors opened when commanded. After their tests, the engineers powered off the instrument the same day, at 7:40 p.m. EST. The instrument will remain powered off until its host satellite, SES-14, reaches geostationary orbit and GOLD operations commence later this year.

Parker Solar Probe Gets Lowered into Thermal Vacuum Chamber

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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.

Learn more

Parker Solar Probe’s Heat Shield Enters Thermal Vacuum Testing

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

Purple Gaze: Parker Solar Probe’s Solar Arrays Pass Laser Illumination Testing

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.