NASA’s Thermal Protection System complete
NASA is gearing up for the launch of the Parker Solar Probe in August of this year, their objective: getting a spacecraft as close to the sun as possible in order to study it more intimately, without melting.
The main line of defense against the Sun’s scorching embrace is now ready, a cutting-edge heat shield that will allow the spacecraft to get as close as 4 million miles to the sun and study its structure, plasma, magnetic fields, electric fields and the energetic particles of the corona.
The eight-foot-diameter heat shield will protect the ship against temperatures up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, while keeping the ship and it’s instruments under a safe temperature of 85 degrees.
The shield is composed of two panels of super-heated carbon-carbon composite, with a 4.5-inch-thick carbon foam core between them. The side of the shield that will face the sun is sprayed with a special coating that will reflect the sun’s energy away of the spacecraft.
Overall, the shield weights about 160 pounds, and the carbon foam core is 93% air while it’s on the Earth.
While the shield is quite extraordinaire, the Parker Solar Probe boasts another feat, it’s speed: 430,000 miles per hour, enough to travel from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in about one second.