Second Stage Attached to Delta IV Heavy Booster for Parker Solar Probe Mission

The second stage is mated to the common booster core of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy.The second stage of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy is mated to the common booster core inside the Horizontal Integration Facility near Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The Delta IV Heavy will launch NASA’s upcoming Parker Solar Probe mission in July 2018. The mission will perform the closest-ever observations of a star when it travels through the Sun’s atmosphere, called the corona. The probe will rely on measurements and imaging to revolutionize our understanding of the corona and the Sun-Earth connection.

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Parker Solar Probe Completes Space Environment Testing

Parker Solar Probe has completed its space environment testing at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and was lifted out of the thermal vacuum chamber on March 24, 2018, after just over two months inside.

Several people watch from the ground as Parker Solar Probe is lifted by crane out of the thermal vacuum chamber.
Members of the Parker Solar Probe team from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland, monitor the progress of the spacecraft as it is lifted from the Space Environment Simulator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lowered to the custom platform visible in the foreground. The spacecraft has spent eight weeks undergoing space environment testing in the thermal vacuum chamber before being lifted out on March 24, 2018. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

Since January, Parker Solar Probe underwent a series of tests inside NASA Goddard’s large thermal vacuum chamber – officially called the Space Environment Simulator – that mimicked the conditions the spacecraft will face in space throughout its seven-year mission. After initially testing the spacecraft’s functions under hot and cold extremes, engineers have spent the past month slowly cycling the temperatures in the thermal vacuum chamber back and forth between hot and cold, making sure Parker Solar Probe’s systems and components operate properly. This thermal cycling is similar to the conditions the spacecraft will experience as it completes 24 close approaches to the Sun over its seven-year mission.

The spacecraft is seen within the opening of the thermal vacuum chamber as it is lifted out.
Parker Solar Probe is lifted out of the Space Environment Simulator at NASA Goddard on March 24, 2018. The spacecraft has spent eight weeks undergoing space environment testing in the thermal vacuum chamber. After about seven more days of testing outside the chamber, Parker Solar Probe will travel to Florida for a scheduled launch on July 31, 2018, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

“Successfully completing this final round of space environment testing is critical, and the team has created an exceptional spacecraft,” said Andy Driesman, Parker Solar Probe program manager from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland, which designed, built, and will manage the mission for NASA. “We now know the spacecraft and systems are able to operate in space, and that Parker Solar Probe is ready to embark on this historic mission.”

Parker Solar Probe is wheeled into a clean room at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is wheeled into a clean room at NASA Goddard on March 24, 2018, after successfully completing space environment testing to verify the spacecraft is ready for operations in space. The probe will undergo about seven more days of testing outside the chamber, then travel to Florida for a scheduled launch on July 31, 2018, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

After undergoing final preparations, the spacecraft will leave NASA Goddard and travel to Florida this spring. Once in Florida, Parker Solar Probe will go through its final integration and testing at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville before launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida this summer. Parker Solar Probe’s launch window opens on July 31, 2018.

Download these photos and more in HD formats from NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio. 

By Justyna Surowiec

Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

Parker Solar Probe Begins Space Environment Testing

People in clean suits work on the spacecraft inside a large chamber
Parker Solar Probe team members from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory work to attach testing and monitoring equipment and sensors to the spacecraft inside the thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Space environment testing duplicates the airless environment of space and simulates the cold and hot temperature cycles the spacecraft will endure during its seven-year exploration of the Sun. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

On Saturday, Jan. 27, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe began space environment testing, starting with the air being pumped out of the 40-foot-tall thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland where the spacecraft is currently housed. The chamber – officially called the Space Environment Simulator – creates a nearly identical replication of the conditions the spacecraft will face during its mission to the Sun.

After the air was slowly removed from the chamber over the course of five hours, cooling tubes behind the chamber walls were chilled to -320 degrees Fahrenheit (-196 Celsius).

Several people in clean suits work on the spacecraft inside a large chamber
Members of the Parker Solar Probe team prepare the spacecraft for space environment testing in the thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The thermal vacuum chamber duplicates the airless environment of space and simulates the cold and hot temperature cycles the spacecraft will endure during its seven-year exploration of the Sun. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

Engineers will cycle the chamber’s temperatures from hot to cold to ensure Parker Solar Probe will be prepared for operations around the Sun. During this cycling, the spacecraft’s systems will undergo testing that mimics critical events that occur during its planned seven-year mission in space. The tests are designed to make sure all the systems and components of Parker Solar Probe are operating as designed.

Download this video in HD formats from NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

This space environment testing will continue for about seven weeks. Parker Solar Probe will emerge from the vacuum chamber in mid-March for final tests before setting off for Florida, where it will launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on July 31, 2018.

Download photos in HD formats from NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

By Justyna Surowiec

Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

The spacecraft sits inside a large chamber with wires all around an two people in clean suits in the background.
To prepare NASA’s Parker Solar Probe for space environment testing, the team must make hundreds of connections to allow the engineers and technicians to monitor the safety and performance of the spacecraft’s systems. Four hundred thermocouples mounted on the spacecraft let the team track the health of the probe as it undergoes temperature cycling in the thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman
The spacecraft is seen from a low angle inside the thermal vacuum chamber.
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe sits inside the thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. On Jan. 27, the spacecraft began space environment testing inside the chamber, which simulates the hot and cold airless environments that the mission will experience during its voyage to the Sun. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman
The spacecraft is seen sitting in a large chamber through the doorway.
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe sits inside the thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center just before the main hatch is closed to begin space environment testing. The thermal vacuum chamber duplicates the airless environment of space and simulates the cold and hot temperature cycles the spacecraft will endure during its seven-year exploration of the Sun. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

Parker Solar Probe Enters Thermal Vacuum Chamber

On Wednesday, Jan. 17, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe was lowered into the 40-foot-tall thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The spacecraft will remain in the chamber for about seven weeks, coming out in mid-March for final tests and packing before heading to Florida. Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on July 31, 2018, on a Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle.

The spacecraft is lifted into the air by a crane
Parker Solar Probe is slowly lifted and carried to the top of the thermal vacuum chamber, which will simulate the airless environment of space, in addition to conducting intense hot and cold temperature testing.
Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/Ed Whitman

The thermal vacuum chamber simulates the harsh conditions that Parker Solar Probe will experience on its journey through space, including near-vacuum conditions and severe hot and cold temperatures.

“This is the final major environmental test for the spacecraft, and we’re looking forward to this milestone,” said Annette Dolbow, Parker Solar Probe’s integration and test lead from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. “The results we’ll get from subjecting the probe to the extreme temperatures and conditions in the chamber, while operating our systems, will let us know that we’re ready for the next phase of our mission – and for launch.”

The spacecraft is lowered into the thermal vacuum chamber
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe descends into the thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The spacecraft will be inside the chamber for about seven weeks.
Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/Ed Whitman

During thermal balance testing, the spacecraft will be cooled to -292 degrees Fahrenheit. Engineers will then gradually raise the spacecraft’s temperature to test the thermal control of the probe at various set points and with various power configurations.

Next, thermal cycling testing will transition the spacecraft from cold to hot and back again several times, simulating the conditions it will experience many times during its mission to the Sun. The Parker Solar Probe team will also test operation of the spacecraft’s hardware at both hot and cold plateaus, as well as perform a mission simulation.

People push a spacecraft wrapped in translucent material on a rolling platform
Members of the NASA Parker Solar Probe team wheel the spacecraft – bagged to protect it from contamination – from its cleanroom at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., to the thermal vacuum chamber, where it will undergo approximately seven weeks of testing at extreme temperatures that will simulate the space environment.
Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/Ed Whitman
The spacecraft is lowered into the thermal vacuum chamber
Engineers and technicians from the Parker Solar Probe team monitor the descent of the spacecraft into the thermal vacuum chamber.
Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/Ed Whitman
People begin reconnecting the spacecraft to power inside the thermal vacuum chamber
Parker Solar Probe team members begin the process of reattaching the spacecraft to power and other systems in preparation for testing the operation of the probe in intense heat and cold while in an airless environment.
Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/Ed Whitman

Download these images in HD formats from NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio. 

By Sarah Frazier

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Parker Solar Probe’s Heat Shield Enters Thermal Vacuum Testing

Photo of the TPS in Goddard's Thermal Vacuum Chamber
Parker Solar Probe’s Thermal Protection System is lowered into the Thermal Vacuum Chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in preparation for environmental testing on Dec. 7, 2017. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

Download images and video in HD formats from NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio

To protect NASA’s Parker Solar Probe from the intense heat of the Sun’s atmosphere, scientists and engineers developed a revolutionary Thermal Protection System. This heat shield, made of carbon-carbon composite material, will experience temperatures of almost 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit as the spacecraft hurtles through the solar atmosphere, while keeping the instruments on the spacecraft at approximately room temperature.

Photo of Parker Solar Probe's heat shield being lowered into a shipping container
Parker Solar Probe’s Thermal Protection System, or heat shield, is carefully moved to a shipping container for transport from Johns Hopkins APL to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center for further environmental testing on Dec. 6, 2017. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

The heat shield recently moved from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, or APL, in Laurel, Maryland, to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt to undergo testing in NASA Goddard’s large Thermal Vacuum Chamber. The Thermal Vacuum Chamber will simulate the harsh conditions that the heat shield must endure during the mission: This includes the airless vacuum of space along with huge temperature fluctuations between hot and cold as the spacecraft swings past the Sun and back out into space. The Thermal Protection System’s ability to withstand extreme temperatures has already been proven through testing at other facilities, as the Thermal Vacuum Chamber at NASA Goddard cannot simulate the very high temperatures of the Sun.

By Geoff Brown
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab

Purple Gaze: Parker Solar Probe’s Solar Arrays Pass Laser Illumination Testing

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe passed laser illumination testing the week of Nov. 27, 2017. During this test, each segment of the spacecraft’s solar panels was illuminated with lasers to check that they were still electrically connected after the vigorous vibration and acoustic testing completed earlier this fall.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is in the midst of intense environmental testing at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in preparation for its journey to the Sun. Parker Solar Probe’s integration and testing team must check over the spacecraft and systems to make sure everything is still in optimal working condition after these rigorous tests – including a check of the solar arrays, which will provide electrical power to the spacecraft. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Joy Ng
Download this video in HD formats from NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio

Parker Solar Probe is in the midst of intense environmental testing at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in preparation for its journey to the Sun. These tests have simulated the noise and shaking the spacecraft will experience during its launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, scheduled for July 31, 2018.

Parker Solar Probe’s integration and testing team must check over the spacecraft and systems to make sure everything is still in optimal working condition after experiencing these rigorous conditions – including a check of the solar arrays, which will provide electrical power to the spacecraft.

“This illumination testing verifies that each ‘string’ of solar cells on the array remains electrically connected to the spacecraft after vibration and acoustic testing,” said solar array lead engineer Ed Gaddy of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, or APL, in Laurel, Maryland. APL is building and will operate the spacecraft.

To make sure that the 44 strings — a series of connected solar cells — on each panel are still well-connected after environmental tests, each string was illuminated individually to ensure that they would still create electricity and transfer it to the spacecraft. Lasers are ideal for this kind of testing, because their narrow beam allows the team to illuminate just one string at a time. The strikingly colored lasers were selected because they were readily available and because the solar cells operate efficiently at that color. But by themselves, these visible lasers are insufficient to power the solar cells, so the team also used infrared lasers for this test. Infrared light is not visible to our eyes and wasn’t captured in these images.

Sound Effects: Parker Solar Probe Passes Acoustic Testing

When NASA’s Parker Solar Probe lifts off on top of a Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle in summer 2018, it will undergo both intense vibration from the physical forces of the rocket engines, as well as acoustic effects from the sound of the engines and the rocket going through the atmosphere.

Verifying the spacecraft and its systems are ready for the rigors of launch is one of the most important parts of testing. On Nov. 3, Parker Solar Probe passed vibration testing at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, or APL, in Laurel, Maryland, where it was designed and built. On Nov. 14, the spacecraft successfully completed acoustic testing at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and is now being prepared for further environmental tests.

Goddard’s Acoustic Test Chamber is a 42-foot-tall chamber that uses 6-foot-tall speakers –which can create sound levels of up to 150 decibels – to simulate the extreme noise levels of a rocket launch. While vibration testing focuses on how much the spacecraft will shake during launch, acoustic testing subjects the probe to intense sound forces, like those generated by the Delta IV Heavy. Each type of force affects the spacecraft differently, so both tests are necessary.

“We’re launching on a very large and powerful vehicle, so we need to make sure that the spacecraft, its systems, and its instruments are going survive the launch environment,” said Shelly Conkey, a Parker Solar Probe structural analyst at APL, who led the acoustic test. “We use our data models to predict the forces that will be impacting Parker Solar Probe, and by comprehensive monitoring of the spacecraft during testing, we can ensure that we’re ready to move on to thermal vacuum testing.”

Parker Solar Probe spacecraft will explore the Sun’s outer atmosphere and make critical observations that will answer decades-old questions about the physics of stars. The resulting data will also help improve how we forecast major eruptions on the Sun and subsequent space weather events that can impact life on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space. The mission is named for Eugene N. Parker, whose profound insights into solar physics and processes have helped shape the field of heliophysics.

Members of the integration and testing team roll Parker Solar Probe into the Acoustic Test Chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman
A member of the integration and testing prepares Parker Solar Probe for environmental testing inside the Acoustic Test Chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman
Members of the integration and testing team prepare Parker Solar Probe for environmental testing in the Acoustic Test Chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman
Parker Solar Probe sits in the Acoustic Test Chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

Final Rocket Components Arrive in Florida for Parker Solar Probe

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy common booster core arrives at the Horizontal Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for preflight processing. The Delta IV Heavy will launch NASA’s upcoming Parker Solar Probe mission. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

All components of the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket that will launch NASA’s Parker Solar Probe have arrived for prelaunch processing at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The Port Common Booster Core of the Delta IV Heavy for the Parker Solar Probe (PSP) Mission is offloaded from the Mariner and transported to the Horizontal Integration Facility. The rocket’s second stage arrived Saturday, Aug. 26, along with the third and final common booster core, which will complete the first stage. The hardware was delivered by ship to Port Canaveral, then transported by truck to the Horizontal Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 37.

The Parker Solar Probe will perform the closest-ever observations of a star when it travels through the Sun’s atmosphere, called the corona. The probe will rely on measurements and imaging to revolutionize our understanding of the corona and the Sun-Earth connection.

Photos at right, above: The Port Common Booster Core of the Delta IV Heavy for the Parker Solar Probe Mission is offloaded from the Mariner ship for transport to the Horizontal Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 37. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky. Below: Sunrise is reflected in the side of the Mariner ship and in the water of Port Canaveral below. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

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