NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Marks 1st Post-Launch Milestones with Course Correction & Instrument Deployments

The
United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe
to touch the Sun and dive into the corona, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, at 3:31 a.m.
EDT from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. From
camera at pad.
Credit: Ken
Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
Ken Kremer     SpaceUpClose.com     21 August 2018


KENNEDY SPACE CENTER,
FL –
NASA’s Parker Solar
Probe has accomplished its first major post-launch milestones by completing its
first trajectory correction maneuver thereby putting it on course to “touch the
sun” as well as starting the first instrument deployments – to start her 7 year
journey of science and discovery to elucidate our origins billions of years
ago.



First up was the instrument deployments – which
are critical towards carrying out the spacecrafts full commissioning and
operations.

“We will be working 24/7 to get the instruments
ready and commissioned in time for the 1st Venus flyby and 1st
solar perihelion,” Nicky Fox,
project
scientist at APL, t
old Space UpClose in a
post launch interview at the Kennedy Space Center. 



“They will all be functioning.”



Beginning barely two days after the magnificent
Aug. 12, 2018 launch on a ULA Delta IV rocket from Cape Canaveral the car sized
Parker Solar Probe “achieved several planned milestones toward full
commissioning and operations,” announced mission controllers at the Johns
Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, or APL, in Laurel, Maryland, in a statement.



These include deployment of the high-gain
antenna and starting the power up of the first of the four on-board science
instruments suites, namely the FIELDS investigation.



“On Aug. 13, the high-gain
antenna
, which Parker Solar Probe uses to communicate high-rate science
data to Earth, was released from locks which held it stable during launch.
Controllers have also been monitoring the spacecraft as it autonomously uses
its thrusters to remove (or “dump”) momentum, which is part of the flight
operations of the spacecraft. Managing momentum helps the spacecraft remain in
a stable and optimal flight profile,” said NASA officials. 





All four instrument suites need to be powered
up and tested during the commissioning phase to ensure their successful operation.



This must happen quickly because the first
Venus flyby is slated for Oct. 3, 2018, at 4:44 a.m. EDT and the first
perihelion flyby of the Sun on Nov. 5, 2018, at 10:27 p.m. EST (Nov. 6, 2018,
at 03:27 UTC).



“The spacecraft will use Venus to slightly
slow itself and adjust its trajectory for an optimal path toward first perihelion of the Sun on Nov. 5, 2018.” 



FIELDS was the first Parker instrument to
begin deployments. 



“The
FIELDS investigation, which consists of the most elements, went first. It was
powered up on Aug. 13 for two activities. First was the opening of the clamps
which held four of the five FIELDS antennas stowed during takeoff. These
antennas will be deployed roughly 30 days after launch, and they will stick out
from the corners of the spacecraft’s heat shield — called the Thermal
Protection System — and be exposed to the harsh solar environment. Second, the
spacecraft’s magnetometer boom was fully deployed. This boom contains three
magnetometers and a fifth, smaller electric field antenna, all part of the
FIELDS suite. Further instrument check-outs and deployments are scheduled in
the coming days for the spacecraft.”

Illustration of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe’s trajectory through the inner
solar system following Aug. 12, 2018 launch from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit:
NASA/JHUAPL

The first trajectory correction maneuver (known
as TCM-1) was conducted Monday Aug. 20, 2018 at 6:07 a.m. EDT.



“Parker Solar Probe successfully completed its
first trajectory correction maneuver (known as TCM-1), achieving a near-perfect
firing of its propulsion system and putting the spacecraft on course to “touch”
the Sun. This maneuver sets up the orbital geometry that will allow Parker
Solar Probe to come within about 3.83 million miles (8.86 solar radii) of the
Sun’s surface on its closest approach in 2024,” said NASA.


“Following launch at 3:31 a.m. EDT on Aug. 12,
the spacecraft control team at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, or
APL, in Laurel, Maryland, analyzed Parker Solar Probe’s position and quickly
developed a re-optimized trajectory to place it in the best path for the seven
Venus gravity assist maneuvers and 24 solar orbits that the mission will make.
Re-assessing a spacecraft’s trajectory after launch is a normal step, as the
mission team is then able to accurately track the spacecraft’s actual speed,
direction and position to create a more precise trajectory plan.”


“Spacecraft controllers at the mission
operation center initiated the two-part TCM-1 beginning at 6:00 a.m. EDT on
Aug. 19 with a 44-second burn of the engines. The majority of the engine
firing, which lasted just over seven minutes, began at 6:00 a.m. EDT on Aug.
20.”



“TCM-1 is one of the critical events of the
mission and a major mission milestone,” said Parker Solar Probe mission design
and navigation manager Yanping Guo, from APL. “In the future, we only need to
fine-tune the trajectory periodically, and no major adjustments or large
maneuvers will be required unless something unusual happens. In short: We are
on our way to touch the Sun!”



“The team completely nailed this maneuver,”
said APL’s Andy Driesman, Parker Solar Probe project manager. “Execution of the
burn was exceptional, measuring at less than 0.2 percent magnitude error—which
translates to a 0.3 standard deviation, or sigma, from optimal. We had defined
success for TCM-1 as up to 3 sigma, which really illustrates how phenomenally
this was executed.”



As of 12:00 p.m. EDT on August 20, Parker
Solar Probe was 5.5 million miles from Earth, travelling at 39,500 miles per
hour.



NASA’s daring Parker Solar Probe mission will fly
at never before attained speeds through the hellish atmosphere of our Sun’s
corona for the first time in human history.



Parker will travel at
unprecedented speeds of up to 430,000 MPH, some 700,000 kph as at swings by the
sun 24 times over the next 7 years via orbits shaped by 7 flybys of Venus.  

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

The mission began with a dazzling
middle-of-the-night blastoff of the mighty Delta IV Heavy rocket in the wee
hours of Sunday morning, Aug. 12 – and delivered the car sized spacecraft to its
intended trajectory towards Venus and the Sun.

The 23-story tall triple barreled United
Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket successfully launched at 3:31 a.m. EDT Aug.
12 from the Florida Space Coast and put on a brilliant display of fire power
with 2.1 million pounds of thrust spewing forth from the trio of liquid
oxygen/liquid hydrogen RS-68A main engines that quickly turned night into day a
few hours before Sundays natural sunrise under nearly cloud-free skies.



Ignition of all three RS-68A
main engines – Up Close view – as NASA’s Parker Solar Probe
is propelled to study and fly through our
Sun’s corona atop
the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launched Sunday,
Aug. 12, 2018, at 3:31 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air
Force Station, Florida.
Credit: Ken
Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Check out our Space UpClose gallery of photos
and videos. Plus my BBC TV World News prelaunch interview. 

Here’s my Parker launch video
from a remote camera set at pad 37:


Video Caption: Launch of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe on United Launch Alliance
Delta IV Heavy rocket
on Aug. 12, 2018, at 3:31 a.m. EDT from Launch
Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on humanity’s 1st
mission to our sun that will fly through the sun’s atmosphere or corona –
as seen in this remote camera video taken at the pad. Credit:
Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
 

Here’s my BBC TV World News
Pre-Launch interview:


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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