Wednesday January 16, 2019
Home Lead Story NASA Readies ...

NASA Readies Probe to Touch the Sun With ‘Cutting-Edge Heat Shield’

The eight-foot-diameter heat shield will safeguard everything within its umbra, the shadow it casts on the spacecraft, NASA said

0
//
NASA, Microsoft
After lettuce, astronauts could grow beans in space in 2021. Pixabay

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.

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.

With the help of its heat shield, the spacecraft’s orbit will carry it to within four million miles of the Sun’s fiercely hot surface, where it will collect data about the inner workings of the corona.

NASA-heat-shield
Representational image. (IANS)

The eight-foot-diameter heat shield will safeguard everything within its umbra, the shadow it casts on the spacecraft, NASA said.

At Parker Solar Probe’s closest approach to the Sun, temperatures on the heat shield will reach nearly 1,371 degrees Celsius, but the spacecraft and its instruments will be kept at a relatively comfortable temperature of about 29.4 degrees Celsius.

The heat shield is made of two panels of superheated carbon-carbon composite sandwiching a lightweight 4.5-inch-thick carbon foam core.

Also Read: NASA to Soon Start Testing ‘quiet’ Supersonic Flights over Texas

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.

The heat shield itself weighs only about 72.5 kg, NASA said. (IANS)

Next Story

China Exchanged Data With NASA On Its Recent Mission To Moon

The country has also said that it will welcome scientists and astronauts from around the world to make use of its space station, which is slated for completion by 2022.

0
China
Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the national space agency, speaks during a press conference held in Beijing, China, Jan. 14, 2019. VOA

China exchanged data with NASA on its recent mission to land a Chinese spacecraft on the far side of the moon, the Chinese space agency said Monday, in what was reportedly the first such collaboration since an American law banned joint space projects with China that do not have prior congressional approval.

The space agency’s deputy director, Wu Yanhua, said NASA shared information about its lunar orbiter satellite in hopes of monitoring the landing of the Chang’e 4 spacecraft, which made China the first country to land on the far side of the moon earlier this month.

China in turn shared the time and coordinates of Chang’e 4’s scheduled landing, Wu told reporters during a briefing on the lunar mission. He added that while NASA’s satellite did not catch the precise moment of landing, it took photographs of the area afterward.

The state-run China Daily said that was the first such form of cooperation since the 2011 U.S. law was enacted.

Moon, China
The far side of the moon, photographed by the Chang’e-4 lunar probe, is seen in this image provided by China National Space Administration, Jan. 3, 2019. VOA

NASA has not published any statements on the collaboration and could not immediately be reached for comment.

The lunar mission by Chang’e 4 and its rover, Jade Rabbit 2, was a triumph for China’s growing space program, which has been rapidly catching up with those of Russia and the U.S. President Xi Jinping has placed space exploration among the country’s national development priorities and the far side mission offered a chance for China to do something not done before by any other country.

The far side of the moon – the side which faces away from Earth – posed a challenge for scientists because it is beyond radio signals’ reach. China set up a relay satellite in May to receive communication from Chang’e 4.

“In the past, we were always rushing to catch up to the advanced global standards” in space, said Wu Weiren, the chief designer of China’s lunar exploration project.

“There were many things to catch up on, and fewer things in which we could surpass others,” he said. “With the probe of the far side of the moon this time, Chinese people have done very well.”

China, Moon
This picture taken Jan. 3, 2019, and received, Jan. 4, from the China National Space Administration (CNSA) via CNS shows a robotic lunar rover on the far side of the moon. VOA

Officials at the briefing declined to give specific figures on the costs of the space program.

Wu Yanhua said the Chang’e 4 was originally built as a “backup product” for Chang’e 3. He said the spending needed to refit it for its new objective was akin to repairing a short section of subway line.

Also Read: NASA Telescopes Capture Birth of Black Hole or Neutron Star

Around the end of this year, China plans to launch Chang’e 5, which is to collect and bring back samples from the near side of the moon, the first time that has been done since 1976. Scientists are still researching whether to send Chinese astronauts, Wu said.

The country has also said that it will welcome scientists and astronauts from around the world to make use of its space station, which is slated for completion by 2022. (VOA)