NASA and the United Launch Alliance are all set to launch its newest spacecraft, called the Parker Solar Probe (a huge United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket) aboard.
In December 2024, the probe will reach its closest point to the sun, coming within 3.83 million miles (6 million kilometers) of our star. At that point, the spacecraft will be speeding along at a whopping 430,000 mph (692,000 km/h).
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The team behind the spacecraft is surprisingly relaxed about the record-breaking feat.
“Designing something to go fast in space is pretty much the same as you would design it to go slow in space; space has nothing to really impede its progress,” Parker Solar Probe project manager Andrew Driesman, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said during a NASA news conference on Saturday.
The Parker Solar Probe will also be surrounded by hypervelocity dust environment (a slew of tiny, fast-moving particles, some of which will inevitably bang into the spacecraft). The probe carries Kevlar blankets to protect itself from those impacts.
During its closest approach to the sun, the Parker Solar Probe will leave other speedy spacecraft eating metaphorical dust.
It is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that can endure unprecedented levels of heat, and radiation 500 times that experienced on Earth.
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The project, with a $1.5 billion price tag, is the first major mission under Nasa's Living With a Star program.