Washington: The Parker Solar Probe, NASA's historic mission to Sun, is on its scheduled path and is operating according to plan, mission controllers have said. The Parker Solar Probe was launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket on August 13.
The aircraft was 4.6 million kilometres from Earth as of 12 pm EDT on August 16 and was travelling at 62,764 kilometres per hour. It was heading toward its first Venus flyby scheduled for October 3, 2018, Geoff Brown from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, wrote in a NASA blog post on Friday.
The Parker Solar Probe uses Venus to slightly slow itself and adjust its trajectory for an optimal path toward the first perihelion of the Sun on November 5 this year.
"Parker Solar Probe is operating as designed, and we are progressing through our commissioning activities," said Project Manager Andy Driesman of APL.
The mission lifetime will be under seven years during which the spacecraft will complete 24 orbits of the Sun and will reach within 3.8 million miles of the Sun's surface at the closest approach.
"Recent advances in materials science gave us the material to fashion a heat shield in front of the spacecraft not only to withstand the extreme heat of the Sun, but to remain cool on the backside," said Adam Szabo, the mission scientist for the Parker Solar Probe at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
The heat shield has been made of 4.5-inch thick carbon composite foam material between two carbon fibre face sheets.
When the probe will make its closest approach to the Sun, the temperatures on the heat shield will reach nearly 1,371 degrees Celsius, but the spacecraft and its instruments will be kept at a temperature of about 29.4 degrees Celsius.