NASA will proceed to the system assembly, integration, test and launch stage for a mission to the sun scheduled to launch in the summer of 2018.
Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory said Thursday the space agency has completed a management review development milestone on the Solar Probe Plus program that will send a spacecraft on a data collection mission into the sun’s atmosphere.
For Phase D, the APL-NASA team will finish construction of the spacecraft, install science instruments and test the system under simulated launch and space conditions.
“We’ve designed a spacecraft, instruments and a mission that can address the engineering challenges associated with the harsh solar environment, and send back the data that scientists have sought for decades,” said Andy Driesman, APL Solar Probe Plus project manager.
APL said the mission will deliver four instrument suites designed to study magnetic fields, plasma, energy particles and the solar wind to help forecast space-weather events that affect life on Earth.
NASA has scheduled the Solar Probe Plus launch date for a 20-day window that opens July 31, 2018 and aims to put the spacecraft as close as 3.9 million miles away from the sun’s surface, or seven times closer than any other spacecraft.
Solar Plus Probe will carry a 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield to withstand temperatures of close to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit but maintain the payload’s operations at room temperature, according to APL.