San Francisco : Ahead of its August launch, NASA's Parker Solar Probe -- the mission aiming to get closest to the Sun than ever by any human-made object -- has got its "revolutionary" heat shield permanently attached to the spacecraft, the US space agency said. The probe's heat shield -- called the Thermal Protection System, or TPS -- was reinstalled on the spacecraft on June 27, NASA said in a statement on Thursday.
NASA solar probe gets ‘revolutionary’ heat shield
The reinstallation of the heat shield -- which was briefly attached to the spacecraft during testing in the autumn of 2017 -- marks the first time in months that Parker Solar Probe has been fully integrated. A mission 60 years in the making, Parker Solar Probe will make a historic journey to the Sun's corona, a region of the solar atmosphere.
The heat shield is made of two panels of superheated carbon-carbon composite sandwiching a lightweight 4.5-inch-thick carbon foam core. The Sun-facing side of the heat shield is also sprayed with a specially formulated white coating to reflect as much of the Sun's energy away from the spacecraft as possible. Because Parker Solar Probe travels so fast -- 69,2018 km per hour at its closest approach to the Sun, fast enough to travel from Philadelphia to Washington, DC, in about one second -- the shield and spacecraft have to be light to achieve the needed orbit.