NASA is planning to launch Solar Probe Plus. It is the first mission of its kind, flying right into the upper atmosphere of Sun. Probe Plus has successfully passed the design review, a significant milestone leading to the anticipated launch in summer 2018.
The study has given NASA the go-ahead to finalize assembly and implementation. The spacecraft sent for Solar Probe Plus has its propulsion system and primary structure ready.
Engineers at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland are building the spacecraft. Once they completely assemble the spacecraft, they will work on rest of its systems and scientific instruments.
Solar Probe Plus Launch Window
There is a 20-day window for the Solar Probe Plus mission to launch, starting on July 31st, 2018. The spacecraft is equipped with sensors and advanced scientific instruments to collect data on mechanisms heating the corona and accelerating solar wind.
The solar wind brings charged particles to the space atmosphere, impacting the space weather and satellites. Solar Probe Plus is an extension of the program by NASA called Living With a Star program. The initiative is launched to study various aspects of Sun-Earth system directly impacting human lives. NASA keeps on discovering the universe by using new developed space technology and NASA recently discovered a new solar system.
Questions Answered by Solar Probe Plus
The mission nearing Sun aims to answer three important questions.
The first and yet most startling question is why Sun’s surface is not as hot as its atmosphere or Corona. The difference in temperature between the two surfaces is massive. The surface of Sun is 10000 degrees hot while its atmosphere is 3.5 million degrees hot.
The second question is aimed to determine the reason behind the speed of solar winds. They want to assess what factors are responsible for increasing solar wind. Scientists would try to get a clue about the reasons behind Sun particle’s acceleration.
Researchers are also interested in knowing why Sun sometimes produces high-energy particles called solar energetic particles. These particles pose significant danger to the satellites as well as spacecraft. These particles make it difficult for scientists to collect data.
Scientists are very hopeful that Solar Probe Plus will help them correctly forecast space weather events impacting life on Earth.
Any such mission to Sun is not easy. Scientists had to come up with a 4.5-inch carbon-composite shield so that the sensitive instruments could withstand such high temperatures. Researchers have installed thermal tubes called thermal radiators to radiate heat penetrating the heat shield. Engineers and Scientists working on the project believe that if these thermal radiators work as per expectations, the instruments will remain at room temperature.