In First for a Spacecraft, Parker Solar Probe Autonomously Manages Heat Load on Solar Arrays

Two people in bunny suits stand on either end of a solar array and examine it.
Members of the Parker Solar Probe team examine and align one of the spacecraft’s two solar arrays on May 31, 2018. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

Two days after Parker Solar Probe flew past Venus toward its rendezvous with the Sun, the spacecraft had drawn close enough to our star that its power-generating solar array wings began to tilt themselves inward – a task directed by the spacecraft itself, based on the rising temperatures – away from the Sun and behind the spacecraft’s heat shield. This is the first time that autonomous, closed-loop solar array angle control based on temperature has taken place on a spacecraft.

This solar array movement, controlled by software within the spacecraft’s main processor, began on Oct. 5, soon after Parker Solar Probe’s distance from the Sun dropped below about 65 million miles.

Read more from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.