In the early morning hours, Parker Solar Probe hurtled away from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 37 atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy. Over the course of the last two years the ground breaking Solar Observatory has now had 5 encounters with the Sun and three Venus Gravity Assist Flybys. PSP’s first Solar encounter broke the record for the closest approach by a spacecraft to the Sun of roughly 15 Million Miles. Every three orbits will lower that encounter distance until Orbit 24 when PSP will be within 4 Million Miles of the Sun.
The protective heat shield not only prevents the observatory from burning up as it flies by the sun but it keeps the various scientific instruments in a relatively comfortable environment, in the heat shields shadow, to gather their data. The Mission Operations team from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, keeps the observatory pointing in the correct direction during every orbit, adjusting and fine tuning to maintain optimal conditions for the observatory.
Where is Parker Solar Probe? How Fast is Parker Solar Probe Going?