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.
Read the complete article with photos here
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.”
The complete article is here:
On Sept. 21, 2017, engineers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, lowered the thermal protection system – the heat shield – onto the spacecraft for a test of alignment as part of integration and testing. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL
On Sept. 21, 2017, engineers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, lowered the thermal protection system – the heat shield – onto the spacecraft for a test of alignment as part of integration and testing.
This is the first time that the revolutionary heat shield that will protect the first spacecraft to fly directly into the Sun’s atmosphere was installed; also, this is the only time the spacecraft will have its thermal protection system — which will reach temperatures of 2,500 degrees F while at the Sun — attached until just before launch.
Parker Solar Probe is scheduled for launch on July 31, 2018, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The spacecraft will explore the Sun’s outer atmosphere and make critical observations that will answer decades-old questions about the physics of how stars work. The resulting data will improve forecasts of major space weather events that impact life on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space.
Watch a time-lapse video of the installation on YouTube
Download HD video of the time-lapse installation