First NASA Parker Solar Probe Results Reveal Surprising Details About Our Sun

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The Sun is revealing itself in dramatic detail and shedding light on how other stars may form and behave throughout the universe – all thanks to NASA’s Parker Solar Probe. The spacecraft is enduring scorching temperatures to gather data, which are being shared for the first time in four new papers that illuminate previously unknown and only-theorized characteristics of our volatile celestial neighbor.

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China Launch Surge Left U.S., Russia Behind in 2018

Long March 2F rocket in flight carrying Shenzhou-11. (Credit: CCTV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The year 2018 was the busiest one for launches in decades. There were a total of 111 completely successful launches out of 114 attempts. It was the highest total since 1990, when 124 launches were conducted.

China set a new record for launches in 2018. The nation launched 39 times with 38 successes in a year that saw a private Chinese company fail in the country’s first ever orbital launch attempt.

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UC Berkeley Scientists Scramble to Build Payload for 2021 Moon Landing

Commercial landers like this will carry science and technology payloads, including one built by UC Berkeley, to the lunar surface, paving the way for NASA astronauts to land on the Moon by 2024. (Credit: NASA)

Robert Sanders
UC Berkeley Media Relations

Scavenging spare parts and grabbing off-the-shelf hardware, University of California, Berkeley, space scientists are in a sprint to build scientific instruments that will land on the moon in a mere two years.

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NIAC Phase II Award: Solar Surfing

Solar surfing (Credit: Doug Willard)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase II Award: Up to $500,000 for 2 Years

Solar Surfing
Doug Willard
NASA Kennedy Space Center

In 2018 the Parker Solar Probe launched, planning to approach the Sun to within 8.5 solar radii of its surface. This is seven times closer than any previous mission, allowing first-time particle, radiation, and magnetic field measurements of the Sun’s corona. The Parker Solar Probe utilizes a solar shield comprising a lightly-coated carbon composite layer on top of four inches of carbon foam. However, the temperature limits of the shield restrict the closest approach distance.

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All Systems Go As Parker Solar Probe Begins Second Sun Orbit

Parker Solar Probe (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)

LAUREL, Md. (NASA PR) — On Jan. 19, 2019, just 161 days after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe completed its first orbit of the Sun, reaching the point in its orbit farthest from our star, called aphelion. The spacecraft has now begun the second of 24 planned orbits, on track for its second perihelion, or closest approach to the Sun, on April 4, 2019.

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Parker Solar Probe Breaks Record, Becomes Closest Spacecraft to Sun

A Sun-skimming mission like Parker Solar Probe has been a dream of scientists for decades, but only recently has the needed technology – like the heat shield, solar array cooling system, and fault management system – been available to make such a mission a reality. (Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman)

By Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Parker Solar Probe now holds the record for closest approach to the Sun by a human-made object. The spacecraft passed the current record of 26.55 million miles from the Sun’s surface on Oct. 29, 2018, at about 1:04 p.m. EDT, as calculated by the Parker Solar Probe team.

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Three NASA Missions Return 1st-Light Data

These are the first images from WISPR, short for the Wide-field Imager for Parker Solar Probe. Researchers studied the images to determine the instrument was pointed as expected, using celestial landmarks as their guide. The left image shows the Milky Way, looking at the galactic center. In the right image, there is a distinctive cluster of four stars near the right edge that is in the constellation Scorpius. The planet Jupiter is also visible in the right image as the bright object slightly right of center. The Sun, not visible in the image, is far off to the right of the image’s right edge. (Credits: NASA/Naval Research Laboratory/Parker Solar Probe)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s continued quest to explore our solar system and beyond received a boost of new information this week with three key missions proving not only that they are up and running, but that their science potential is exceptional. On Sept. 17, 2018, TESS — the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite — shared its first science observations. Later in the week, the latest two missions to join NASA’s heliophysics fleet returned first light data: Parker Solar Probe, humanity’s first mission to “touch” the Sun, and GOLD, a mission that studies the dynamic boundary between Earth and space.

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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Set for Saturday Morning Launch

Parker Solar Probe (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — At 3:33 a.m. EDT on Aug. 11, while most of the U.S. is asleep, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will be abuzz with excitement. At that moment, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, the agency’s historic mission to touch the Sun, will have its first opportunity to lift off.

Launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, Parker Solar Probe will make its journey all the way to the Sun’s atmosphere, or corona — closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history.

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ULA Delta IV Heavy to Launch Parker Solar Probe on Saturday

In the Astrotech processing facility in Titusville, Florida, near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, on Tuesday, June 5, 2018, technicians and engineers perform light bar testing on NASA’s Parker Solar Probe. (Credit: NASA/Glenn Benson)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., Aug. 7, 2018 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket is in final preparations to launch NASA’s Parker Solar Probe from Space Launch Complex-37 on Aug. 11.

NASA selected ULA’s Delta IV Heavy for its unique ability to deliver the necessary energy to begin the Parker Solar Probe’s journey to the sun. After launch, the spacecraft will orbit directly through the solar atmosphere – the corona – closer to the surface than any human-made object has ever gone.

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Traveling to the Sun: Why Won’t Parker Solar Probe Melt?

In the Astrotech processing facility in Titusville, Florida, near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, on Tuesday, June 5, 2018, technicians and engineers perform light bar testing on NASA’s Parker Solar Probe. (Credit: NASA/Glenn Benson)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — This summer, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will launch to travel closer to the Sun, deeper into the solar atmosphere, than any mission before it. If Earth was at one end of a yard-stick and the Sun on the other, Parker Solar Probe will make it to within four inches of the solar surface.

Inside that part of the solar atmosphere, a region known as the corona, Parker Solar Probe will provide unprecedented observations of what drives the wide range of particles, energy and heat that course through the region — flinging particles outward into the solar system and far past Neptune.

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NASA Prepares to Launch a Mission to Touch the Sun

Illustration of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe leaving Earth. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Early on an August morning, the sky near Cape Canaveral, Florida, will light up with the launch of Parker Solar Probe. No earlier than Aug. 6, 2018, a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy will thunder to space carrying the car-sized spacecraft, which will study the Sun closer than any human-made object ever has.
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NASA KSC Director Looks Ahead to 2018 Milestones

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana speaks to employees at the Florida spaceport about plans for the coming year. (Credits: NASA/Frank Michaux)

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana recently spoke to spaceport employees about plans for 2018. The coming year will be highlighted by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partners preparing to launch test flights for crewed missions to the International Space Station.

“This is going to be an awesome year for us,” Cabana said speaking to center employees on Jan. 11, in the Lunar Theater of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Apollo Saturn V Center. “The number one priority this year is we’ve got to get commercial crew flying to the International Space Station.”

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Missions to Moon, Mars, Mercury & More Set for 2018

This artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passing by Earth. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

Updated with SpaceX’s Red Tesla launch.

An international fleet of spacecraft will be launched in 2018 to explore the Moon, Mars, Mercury and the Sun. Two sample-return spacecraft will enter orbit around asteroids while a third spacecraft will be launched to search for asteroids that contain water that can be mined.

NASA will also launch its next exoplanet hunting spacecraft in March. And the space agency will ring in 2019 with the first ever flyby of a Kuiper Belt object.

And, oh yes, Elon Musk is launching his car in the direction of Mars.
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