Naturally, just zipping through space at a rather rapid clip isn’t Parker’s intent. The probe will complete 24 highly elliptical orbits of the Sun, getting as close at 3.8 million miles—about twenty-five times closer than the Earth. At that distance, the exposed parts of the spacecraft will hit a toasty 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, but behind its 4.5-inch thick carbon composite heat shield Parker’s instruments will stay a cool 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Those instruments will gather information about the Sun’s corona that should help refine theories about what’s going on in the heart of our nearby star, as well as making better forecasts of solar “weather.”
Parker will make seven close brushes with Venus as it slows its orbit to fall inward toward the Sun.
New Horizon nears a “hydrogen wall”
Gizmodo reports that New Horizon, which has returned such fantastic photos of Pluto, Charon, and other distant objects, is nearing a wall — though not one that’s going to halt its progress. It no, it was not built to help Trump’s Space Force keep out aliens.
The New Horizons spacecraft, now at a distance nearly four billion miles from Earth and already far beyond Pluto, has measured what appears to be a signature of the furthest reaches of the Sun’s energy—a wall of hydrogen. It nearly matches the same measurement made by the Voyager mission 30 years ago, and offers more information as to the furthest limits of our Sun’s reach.
Falcon 9 Block 5 flies for the second time
The big trick for the Block 5 iteration of the Falcon 9 is that they’re supposed to be reusable, with minimum maintenance, as many as 100 times. The first Block 5 is off to a good start as this week it took an Indonesian communication satellite to orbit and returned again for a safe landing. The same booster put a comms satellite in orbit for Bangladesh back in May.
Eventually SpaceX says they can turn around a Falcon 9 launch in as little as a day. The successful relaunch of these boosters builds additional data for the Falcon 9 configuration that will be used with Crew Dragon that carry crews to the ISS. The first, unmanned, Crew Dragon flight is scheduled for November.
Aug 12, Delta IV Heavy, Parker Solar Probe
After a delay on Saturday morning, Parker goes for another attempt in the early hours of Sunday. The launch window begins at 0333 ET.
Aug 17, Falcon 9, Telstar 18 Vantage
Conflicting information at the moment for whether Telstar 18, which has already slid from earlier in the month, will now go on the 17th or the 23rd. This latest Telstar is intended to provide service over China, Mongolia, and Southeast Asia. Both this flight and the previous Telstar flight on August 4 are block 5 Falcon 9s (that’s true of all Falcon 9 flights from now on), so expect to see some booster landings. Since we’re on the East Coast for these, it seems unlikely that Mr. Steven will be in the game trying to catch a nosecone faring.
Aug 21, Vega, Aeolus
The small, solid-fueled Vega rocket will loft the Atmospheric Dynamics Mission Aeolus satellite from Guiana Space Center. Aeolus will measures properties of high altitude winds around the planet.
Aug ??, Falcon 9, Es’hail 2
This communication satellite for Qatar Satellite Company provides TV broadcasting and adds HD bandwidth across the Middle East and North Africa. An actual date for the launch hasn’t been set, but it’s still set for August.
Rocket Lab’s Electron launch has now been delayed long enough that it will soon run into their next scheduled launch. But it could be coming up anytime … so stay alert.