Magnificent Launch for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe on Historic Journey to Touch Sun: Photos

The
United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe
to touch the Sun, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, at 3:31 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex
37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Parker Solar Probe is
humanity’s first-ever mission into a part of the Sun’s atmosphere called the
corona. Credit: Ken
Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com


Ken Kremer     SpaceUpClose.com     12 August 2018


KENNEDY SPACE CENTER,
FL –
NASA’s Parker Solar
Probe spacecraft began its historic journey to touch the Sun with a magnificent
middle of the night launch early this morning from the Florida Space Coast atop
a powerful
United Launch Alliance
Delta IV Heavy rocket
. 


Liftoff came a day late
for the $1.5 Billion car-sized Parker probe but no less splendid after resolving
a last moment
technical glitch during the first launch attempt Saturday. 


Weather was remarkably perfect
as the triple barreled beast came to life with a voluminous pool of yellow flame
raced up the side and orange exhaust flames billowed from the base as the trio
of RS-68 first stage engine ignited with over 2.1 million pounds of liftoff
thrust right at the opening of Sundays predawn launch window.

Streaking to the Sun!! NASA’s
Historic
Parker Solar Probe is on its way to “Touch the Sun’ for the first time in Nov. 2018 in this long duration streak shot takan after 3:31 a.m. EDT blastoff Aug. 12, 2018 from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.  The probe is power positive and healthy after delivery to space by United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket. Credit: Ken
Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Here is the NASA Press release:

Hours before the rise of the very star it will
study, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe launched
from Florida Sunday to begin its journey to the Sun, where it will undertake a
landmark mission. The spacecraft will transmit its first science observations
in December, beginning a revolution in our understanding of the star that makes
life on Earth possible.

Roughly the size of a small car, the spacecraft
lifted off at 3:31 a.m. EDT on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket
from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. At 5:33 a.m.,
the mission operations manager reported that the spacecraft was healthy and
operating normally.



The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, at 3:31 a.m.
EDT from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Parker
Solar Probe is humanity’s first-ever mission into a part of the Sun’s
atmosphere called the corona.
Credit: Ken
Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com


The mission’s findings will help researchers
improve their forecasts of space weather events, which have the potential to
damage satellites and harm astronauts on orbit, disrupt radio communications
and, at their most severe, overwhelm power grids.

“This mission truly marks humanity’s first visit
to a star that will have implications not just here on Earth, but how we better
understand our universe,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of
NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “We’ve accomplished something that decades
ago, lived solely in the realm of science fiction.”

During the first week of its journey, the
spacecraft will deploy its high-gain antenna and magnetometer
boom
. It also will perform the first of a two-part deployment of its
electric field antennas. Instrument testing will begin in early September and
last approximately four weeks, after which Parker Solar Probe can begin science
operations.

“Today’s launch was the culmination of six
decades of scientific study and millions of hours of effort,” said project
manager Andy Driesman, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics
Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. “Now, Parker Solar Probe is operating
normally and on its way to begin a seven-year mission of extreme science.”

Zoomed in view 3 RS-68 engines
at base of 
United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket lifting off with >2.1 million pounds of
thrust to inject NASA’s Parker Solar Probe toward humanity’s 1st
solar coronal sampling Nov 2018 after trajectory adjusting gravity assist flyby of Venus in
October. Credit: 
Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Over the next two months, Parker Solar Probe
will fly towards Venus, performing its first Venus gravity assist in early
October – a maneuver a bit like a handbrake turn – that whips the spacecraft
around the planet, using Venus’s gravity to trim the spacecraft’s orbit tighter
around the Sun. This first flyby will place Parker Solar Probe in position in
early November to fly as close as 15 million miles from the Sun – within the
blazing solar atmosphere, known as the corona – closer than anything made by
humanity has ever gone before.

Throughout its seven-year mission, Parker Solar
Probe will make six more Venus flybys and 24 total passes by the Sun,
journeying steadily closer to the Sun until it makes its closest approach at
3.8 million miles. At this point, the probe will be moving at roughly 430,000
miles per hour, setting the record for the fastest-moving object made by
humanity.

Parker Solar Probe will set its sights on the
corona to solve long-standing, foundational mysteries of our Sun. What is the secret of the
scorching corona
, which is more than 300 times hotter than the Sun’s
surface, thousands of miles below? What drives the supersonic
solar wind
– the constant stream of solar material that blows
through the entire solar system? And finally, what accelerates solar energetic
particles, which can reach speeds up to more than half the speed of light as
they rocket away from the Sun?

Scientists have sought these answers for more
than 60 years, but the investigation requires sending a probe right through the
unrelenting heat of the corona. Today, this is finally possible with
cutting-edge thermal
engineering advances
that can protect the mission on its daring
journey.



Pastel prelaunch sunset view of United Launch Alliance
Delta IV Heavy rocket
carrying NASA’s
historic Parker Solar Probe on the eve of Aug. 12, 2018 launch
from Launch Complex 37
at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. 
Credit:
Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com


“Exploring the Sun’s corona with a spacecraft
has been one of the hardest challenges for space exploration,” said Nicola Fox,
project scientist at APL. “We’re finally going to be able to answer questions
about the corona and solar wind raised by Gene Parker in 1958 – using a
spacecraft that bears his name – and I can’t wait to find out what discoveries
we make. The science will be remarkable.”

Parker Solar Probe carries four instrument
suites designed to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and
capture images of the solar wind. The University of California, Berkeley, U.S.
Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor,
and Princeton University in New Jersey lead these investigations.

Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA’s Living with
a Star program to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect
life and society. The Living with a Star program is managed by the agency’s
Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission
Directorate in Washington. APL designed and built, and operates the spacecraft.

The mission is named for Eugene Parker,
the physicist who first theorized the existence of the solar wind in 1958. It’s
the first NASA mission to be named for a living researcher.
Credit: Ken
Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

A plaque dedicating the mission to Parker was
attached to the spacecraft in May. It includes a quote from the renowned
physicist – “Let’s see what lies ahead.” It also holds a memory card containing
more than 1.1 million names submitted by the public to travel with the
spacecraft to the Sun.



Pastel prelaunch sunset view of United Launch Alliance
Delta IV Heavy rocket
carrying NASA’s
historic Parker Solar Probe on the eve of Aug. 12, 2018 launch
from Launch Complex 37
at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. 
Credit:
Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com


Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA,
Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK and more space and mission reports direct
from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and
Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia.


Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human
spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com
–www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com

Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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