Parker Solar Probe: Building the Thermal Protection System

Parker Solar Probe: Building the Thermal Protection System


Parker Solar Probe has been around since
1958 in some form or another and now in 2018 and we’re getting ready to actually
launch Parker Solar Probe. A lot of that has to do with the fact that getting some of
the Sun is actually really hard and there’s a lot of technology that needed
to be developed in order to enable this mission
there are many enabling technologies the solar arrays were very important the
autonomy was very important one of the ones that was obviously also critical is
the heat shield and developing the technology actually protect the probe at
the Sun that titanium truss was also specially designed for Solar Probe. It’s
actually really a neat piece it’s a a welded titanium trust that’s about four
feet tall but it only weighs about 50 pounds and the key there is we’re trying
to minimize the conduction between the heat shield and the spacecraft so you
want to have as little stuff there as possible
the Parker Solar Probe heat shield is basically one giant sandwich panel and a
sandwich panel is a lot like a honeycomb panel you find in a traditional
spacecraft or on airplanes you have two outer face sheets and then you have a
core in this case the two outer face sheets are carbon carbon composite which
is a lot like the graphite epoxy you might find in your golf clubs it’s just
been superheated and then the inside is a carbon foam so the Parker Solar Probe
heat shield has a white coating that’s on the Sun facing surface of this giant
frisbee that’s protecting the rest of the spacecraft and that white coating
was specially designed to here at the Lab in collaboration with REDD and the
Space Department as well as the Whiting School at Johns Hopkins proper to
actually work at the Sun, and was specifically designed for Solar Probe
and the concept is basically you’d rather be in a white car in a hot day
than a black car the hot day it’s just that it just knocks down the heat that
much more and so it’s helping us stay cool at this
the particles of the corona are very hot like 3 million degrees however they’re
very dispersed it’s not all 3 million degrees everywhere it’s a little hard to
visualize but think about when you are baking cookies and you have your oven
and you can stick your hand in and your hand doesn’t burn up but if you touch
something then you’d burn yourself so similarly when we’re actually at the
sun’s corona we’re not getting that hot because there’s just not as much there
so the temperature is actually lower than the overall temperature of the
particles that are active the chrome when we’re at closest approach the front
surface of the heat shield will be at about 2500 degrees Fahrenheit the back
surface the heat shield will be about 600 degrees Fahrenheit but then the
spacecraft bus is basically sitting at 85 degrees Fahrenheit so the shield is
actually really keeping everything very cool and that’s most the stuff that’s on
that bus additionally there are a couple of instruments that are hanging out off
the truss and they will be hot like the heat shield like SPC and FIELDS there’s
our brave instruments sticking out in the Sun but everything else will be kept
at that nice temperature, 85 degrees (F) so they can be working properly and giving
all that great science data that we’re so excited about after working on this
for 10 years it is really a pleasure to see it kind of actually coming to
fruition to be one small part of this huge engineering team that is making
science dreams come true it’s just amazing
I can’t wait to rewrite textbooks and change the way we look at the Sun
forever I’m whole ball of excited and I honestly don’t know exactly how I’m
gonna feel at launch but I’m really excited to pass this off to the Mission
Operations team and see all the science data that comes down and just get to
enjoy all that Solar Probe brings us

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