Parker Solar Probe breaks its own speed record
Parker Solar Probe was launched in 2018 by NASA to study more about the condition of space when we are closer to Sun. The probe just broke its own speed record by traveling at a 586,000 kph speed while also setting a new record for being the closest man-made object to Sun.
The prime objective of the probe is to get closer to the Sun to help us better understand the role played by it when it comes to generating the “space weather” in Solar System.
In its latest run, Parker managed to be away from the Sun’s photosphere just by a mere 8.5 million km. NASA hasn’t exactly published what the new record figures are. But experts extrapolated the info based on the figures from the last close flyby. The probe was around 10.4 million km away from the Sun on August 9, hitting the top speed of almost 532,000 kph.
The travel to the Sun is not an easy journey as during each step Parker is exposed to extremely high temperatures. Nasa’s engineering team has worked on the probe to create a powerful heat shield to protect it from Sun’s blaze. The heat shield is made out of a carbon-foam core with panels of carbon-carbon composite and is coated with reflective paint.
Even though it is normal to have dust in these regions, Nasa scientists are surprised by the larger amounts they have found so far. In its official statement, Nasa has said that the spacecraft can deal with the dust, even though their pre-launch modeling work did not account for the current amounts of dust.
The probe itself is designed and made out of components that can survive high-velocity dust impacts. During the probe’s impact with these minuscule particles, its surface gets heated a lot, which in turn vapourises the dust and then ionizes it. This rapid ionization and vaporization created plasma explosions that last less than one-thousandth of a second.
As parker ventures more into Sun’s territory, we will see it breaking more records. The mission team expects Parker to finish two Venus flybys in August 2023 and November 2024, after which the probe will speed up even further.
By the current timeline, Parker is expected to be as close as 6.2 million kilometers to the Sun’s surface by December 2024. At the time Parker will be whizzing through space at a whopping speed of 690,000 kph.
Parker will complete its mission by 2025, by the time which it will have completed more than 15 orbits around the Sun.