Author Topic: Delta IV-H - Solar Probe Plus (SPP) - SLC-37 - July 31, 2018  (Read 12783 times)

Offline Star One

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Next Stop: A Trip Inside the Sun's Atmosphere

Every so often the sun emits an explosive burst of charged particles that makes its way to Earth and often wreaks havoc on power grids, aircraft and satellite systems. When clouds of high-speed charged particles come racing off the sun, they can bathe spacecraft, astronauts and planetary surfaces in damaging radiation. Understanding why the sun occasionally emits these high-energy particles can help scientists predict space weather. Knowing when solar energetic particles may hit Earth can help people on the planet take precautions.

Now, Draper and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) are addressing these challenges, and hoping to untangle these unsolved science mysteries, by developing sophisticated sensors for a new NASA mission. Launching in 2018, NASA's Solar Probe Plus spacecraft, which is being designed and built by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., will make 24 solar flybys over nearly seven years, setting a new record for the fastest moving man-made object as it zips 37.6 million kilometers closer to the sun than any spacecraft that has ever studied this star, and be exposed to temperatures exceeding 2500 degrees Fahrenheit.

NASA's Solar Probe Plus—the first mission that will fly into the sun's upper atmosphere and "touch" the sun—will collect data on the mechanisms that heat the corona and accelerate the solar wind, a constant flow of charged particles from the sun. These are two processes with fundamental roles in the complex interconnected system linking the sun and near-Earth space—a system that can drive changes in our space weather and impact our satellites.

Offline smfarmer11

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I'm just slightly nostalgic about this being the probable last time a delta vehicle with a star48 will fly.

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Offline MattMason

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NASA - Solar Probe Plus - July 2018
« Reply #43 on: 05/02/2017 08:38 AM »
Solar Probe Plus is scheduled to launch July 31, 2018 atop one of the last Delta IV Heavy launch vehicles.

It's mission: Approach the sun and explore the mysteries of its corona, nearing the star as close as 3.9 million miles (6.2 million km). To do this, it's going to require a state-of-the-art thermal protection system that shields from temperatures as high as 2,500 degrees F (1,377 C).

To adjust its course, SPP will make 7 flybys of Venus. The wide orbits between Venus and the sun will take place over the probe's expected mission duration of over 6 years, well into 2025.

I'm officially interested in SPP because of a recent bit of awesomeness I've experienced.

Thanks to the "Space Hipsters" Facebook club, I toured the United Launch Alliance rocket factory on April 28. While we weren't allowed to take photos on the tour, we were shown all three cores of SPP's Delta IV Heavy, as well as the Atlas Vs that would launch TDRS-M and a few other missions in the near future. Since the D-IV uses H2/O2, its stage's volume made the otherwise-impressive Atlas Vs, which use RP-1 and O2, look outright skinny.

Sitting not far away was a large white shipping box from NPO Energomash: Engines for the Atlas V. The TDRS-M launch vehicle sat, mostly complete, with a pair of the engines with their gray nozzles.

As we know, the Delta rockets are being phased out. As this construction ends, ULA had made a couple of spots for welding machines for use with Vulcan construction as well as CST-100 Starliner work. Sadly, no Starliners there yet.

ULA builds all the rockets from aluminum plate at the factory, water-cut to form a triangular grid on one side that reinforces the vehicle's thickness while saving weight. These flat sheets are rounded to the desired dimensions. Tanks are created from aluminum sheets no thicker than a US dime coin. Both domes and sides are welded once complete. The Centaur's tanks are so light, they must reside in special frames as they cannot support their own weight.

Also on the tour were construction and pressure testing of the Centaur upper stages. In a special clean room sat the Centaur for SPP and four other missions.

It's one thing to visit a museum, see replicas of rockets and simulators of past spacecraft and never-flown vehicles of times gone by. But I have seen SPP's massive rocket, up-close enough to touch it, getting to see everything save the probe itself, built elsewhere. It's humbling to see real rockets that will fly, built from the ground up, as close as I did. An incredible day.

Mission website:

(I'm the guy with the streamlined head and crossed arms to the left of center of the crowd.)

One of side cores of SPP are left of the photo. Atlas V cores are to the right.
« Last Edit: 05/02/2017 08:41 AM by MattMason »
"Why is the logo on the side of a rocket so important?"
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