NASA’s Parker Solar Probe approaches the sun for the fourth time on January 29, the near-day point. The probe is controlled by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, and controllers reported the spacecraft’s “Status A” beacon on February 1, representing the probe’s passage through the sun.
The team says State A is the best of the four possible state signals and indicates the normal operation of the spacecraft and its instrument suite. This status indicates that any problems with the detector have been repaired by the detector’s on-board autonomous system. In addition, the probe broke records for the speed of detection of man-made objects and proximity to the sun. The probe traveled at a distance of 11.6 million miles at a speed of 244,255 miles per hour as it passed the sun. Although it is far from the sun’s surface, the heat shield on the probe is facing a record 1,134 degrees Fahrenheit on one side of the sun
The team that controls the detector says the heat shield is 300 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was three times when it approached the sun. Behind the heat shield, the temperature of the detector and instrument is approximately 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The next near-date point is expected to occur in 2024-2025, when the thermometer for the heat shield will reach 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The fourth approach to the sun began on January 23 and will last until February 29, with data to be downloaded to NASA in early March.