On January 19, 2019, just 161 days after the launch from the Cape Canaveral Flight Station in Florida, NASA's Parker Solar Probe completed its first orbit of the Sun, reaching its point farthest from our star called Aphelia. The spacecraft has now begun the second of the 24 planned orbits, on the right track for its second perihelion, or its closest approach to the Sun on April 4, 2019.
Parker's solar probe entered into full operational status (known as Phase E) on January 1, with all systems on the Internet and works as it is designed. The spacecraft delivers data from its instruments on Earth through Deep Space Network, and so far more than 17 gigabit scientific data have been downloaded. Complete data from the first orbit will be taken by April.
"It was an enlightening and fascinating first orbit," said Parker Solar Investigation Project Manager Andy Drisman, of the Johns Hopkins University of Applied Physics Laboratory. "We have learned a lot about how the spacecraft works and reacts to the solar environment, and I am proud to say that the team's projections are very accurate." The APL designed, built and manages the NASA mission.
"We have always said that we do not know what to expect until we look at the data," said project scientist Nur Raoufi, also from the APL. "The data we receive indicates many new things that we have not seen before and potential new discoveries." Parker's Solar Probe "delivers the promise of a mission to discover the mysteries of our Sun."
The Parker Solar Probe team is not only focused on analyzing scientific data, but also preparing for a second solar meeting that will take place in about two months.
In preparation for that next meeting, a solid spacecraft recorder is emptied of files already delivered on Earth. In addition, the spacecraft receives updated positioning and navigation information (called ephemeris) and is loaded with a new automatic command sequence, which contains instructions worth about a month.
Like the mission's first mission in November 2018, the second perihelion of the Parker Solar Probe in April will bring the spacecraft at a distance of about 15 million miles from the Sun – just over half of the previous record of approximately 27 million miles set by Helios 2 in 1976.
The four spacecraft instruments will help scientists begin to answer outstanding questions about the fundamental physics of the Sun – including how particles and the solar material accelerate into space at such high speeds and why the Sun's atmosphere, the corona, is very hotter than the surface below.
Parker's solar probe reports good status after a closed solar approach
Follow the spacecraft online: parkersolarprobe.jhuapl.edu/Th … dex.php # Where-Is-PSP