SNC Helps NASA "Touch" the Sun

June 05, 2017

The Parker Solar Probe, previously called Solar Probe Plus, is a spacecraft that NASA will send to the outermost layer of the sun’s atmosphere. The spacecraft will come within 4 million miles of the sun, which is seven times closer than any spacecraft that has come before it. The mission was created to collect data on solar activity that could affect Earth in the future. The Parker Solar Probe will face extreme temperatures and radiation which is why it is crucial that the parts onboard do their jobs correctly. Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is proud to have provided several products that will be used to keep the spacecraft powered, cool and in contact with us here on Earth.

Here is a quick glance at the role we have played in the Parker Solar Probe:

1. Water coolant pump motors:

  • Pumps water through specially designed solar array panels to keep them cool.

2. Passive thermal louvers:

  • Radiates heat away from the structure to keep it cool.

3. Actuators:

  • Solar array drive actuators: Allows the spacecraft to point the solar arrays towards the sun while ensuring the arrays remain protected by the spacecraft’s heat shield.
  • Antenna gimbal actuators: Controls the direction of the communications antenna to make sure it’s pointed in the right direction.

4. Electronic control unit:

  • Provides redundant control of the spacecraft solar array drive and antenna gimbal actuators.

The Parker Solar Probe is set to be launched in the summer of 2018 and should have its first close approach to the sun by late 2024.