The mission, called the Parker Solar Probe, will loop around the sun 24 times, flying within the star's million-degree atmosphere, called the corona. The probe was launched in a second attempt today, and it is the fastest human-made object ever.
Approximately the size of a compact vehicle, the spacecraft lifted off at 3:31 a.m. EDT on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The initially scheduled launch was on Saturday, but it was delayed several times and then rescheduled on Sunday. The event was streamed live on NASA television and the website.
The probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, will have to survive hard heat and radiation conditions. The craft will endure extreme heat while zooming through the solar corona to study the Sun's outer atmosphere that gives rise to the solar winds.
"Our team has been working alongside NASA for five years to prepare this spacecraft for launch and a successful mission", said Mark Bruno, senior vice president of Engility's space and mission systems business. That's why the Delta IV Heavy was used as it has more thrust than the normal ones.
Getting to the Sun is quite a hard task not only because it's a sphere of hot plasma, with an internal convective motion that generates a magnetic field via a dynamo process but also because our home planet moves sideways compared to the Sun at about 67,000 miles an hour, stated NASA. However, this is a lot more complex than it seems. Parker Probe will be required to undertake seven Venus gravity assists to draw its orbit closer to the Sun for a final record approach of 3.83 million miles from the star's visible surface.
Since 2013, Engility has provided software assurance services to NASA for the Parker Solar Probe mission at the agency's IV&V facility in Fairmont, WV.
One of the probe's scientific tasks is researching how solar wind accelerates and leaves the solar corona and enters space. It will also observe the birth of the very solar wind that Dr. Parker predicted.
To reach the center of our Solar System, the Parker Solar Probe will have to cancel out that speed and to accomplish it, Parker mission has to move in the direction opposite to Earth.