Solar spacecraft smashes records for speed and proximity to the Sun

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The Parker Solar Probe, designed, built, and operated by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, now holds two operational records for a spacecraft and will continue to set new records during its seven-year mission to the sun.

At 1:04 p.m. EDT Monday, the spacecraft passed the current record of 26.55 million miles from the Sun's surface as calculated by the Parker Solar Probe team. NASA officials also expect the probe to surpass the fastest speed relative to the Sun record that Helios-2 also set at 153,454 miles per hour. Its final close approach in 2025 is expected to get within 3.83 million miles of the flaming gaseous orb.

"It's been just 78 days since Parker Solar Probe launched, and we've now come closer to our star than any other spacecraft in history".

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"The previous record for closest solar approach was set by the German-American Helios 2 spacecraft in April 1976."The $1.5 billion unmanned spacecraft launched in August, on a strategic mission to protect the Earth by unveiling the mysteries of risky solar storms". NASA said, "So far 153,454 miles per hour was the record of Heliocentric speed, which Helios achieved in April 1976".

"It's a proud moment for the team, though we remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins on October 31", Driesman said.

Parker Solar Probe employs a host of autonomous systems to keep the spacecraft safe without guidance from Earth - including automatic retraction of the solar panels to regulate their temperature, attitude control using solar limb sensors that ensures all of the instruments remain in the heat shield's shadow, and a sophisticated guidance and control system that keeps the spacecraft pointed correctly. The Parker Solar probe flew 26.55 million miles away from the surface of the star on Monday afternoon EDT.

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Because of the spacecraft's distance from Earth and position relative to the Sun, it will be several weeks after the end of the solar encounter before Parker Solar Probe begins transmitting this science data back to Earth. Parker was one of the first in the world of specialists involved in studies of the solar wind.

For several days around the November 5 perihelion, Parker Solar Probe will be completely out of contact with Earth because of interference from the Sun's overwhelming radio emissions.

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