NASA’s Parker Solar Probe successfully completed its second close approach to the Sun, the space agency has announced. By the end of last week, the spacecraft was entering the outbound phase of its second orbit around the Sun, adding another milestone to the mission. The Parker Solar Probe tied its own ‘closest’ record by coming within 15 million miles of the Sun.
NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe last year as part of its mission to study the Sun. The spacecraft already holds the record for closest solar approach, something it will repeatedly break in coming years as it orbits increasingly closer to the star. If everything goes as planned, the probe will approach within 9.86 solar radii from the Sun’s center by 2025.
The second close approach took place on April 4 at 6:40PM EDT, according to NASA, which says the spacecraft was traveling at 213,200 mph at that point. The team managing the Parker Solar Probe reports that the spacecraft issued an “A” beacon status during this close approach, which means it is still in good functioning condition despite the intense heat.
Ahead of its second approach, the Parker Solar Probe’s solar state recorder was purged of files that had already been delivered to its team on Earth. A collection of instruments on the spacecraft enable it to gather data about the Sun and physics in general, including how solar material is accelerated into space at rapid speeds.
The probe must withstand insanely high heat during its mission, something made possible by a large heat shield that helps protect the sensitive bits. Software enables the spacecraft to keep its heat shield positioned toward the Sun, ensuring it doesn’t expose itself to the heat without protection. As well, the device features a liquid cooling system.