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To science and space enthusiasts, there is nothing more exciting than space exploration. Those fans have a new reason to be thrilled with the historic launching of the Parker Solar Probe from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on August 11, 2018. The nearly 7-year Parker Solar Probe mission is targeted to fly into the sun’s outermost atmosphere layer, known as the corona.

We congratulate the mission’s team on breaking records on October 29, 2018! According to the mission’s team, two records were broken:

  • Harnessing Venus’ gravity to gradually bring its orbit closer to the sun, the Parker Solar Probe became the closest-ever spacecraft to the Sun when it passed the current record of 26.55 million miles from the sun’s surface.
  • The Parker Solar Probe also surpassed the record of 153,454 miles per hour making it the fastest-ever human-made object.

The previous record for closest solar approach and speed was set by the German-American Helios 2 spacecraft in April 1976. The Parker Solar Probe will continue to smash its own records as it completes yearly Venus flybys for seven years to gradually bring its orbit within 4 million short miles from the sun in 2024.

Superior Controls is proud to be part of this important mission!

The probe was built and tested by John Hopkins University (JHU) Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). Our very own Senior Engineer Michael Girardin completed the automation of the chambers that test parts of the probe in space-like conditions at JHU before he joined our team. “Michael brought JHU to us when he joined our team and he was actually onsite for Superior Controls making additional changes to the test chambers right before its launch,” commented Mark LaRoche, co-founder and COO of Superior Controls. “It is an exciting and interesting project to be a part of and follow.”

Superior Controls has continued to provide automation expertise at JHU/APL on the Thermal Vacuum Chambers used to produce the simulated space environment of high vacuum and low and high temperatures. The following news article describes the thermal protection system and its preparation for space simulation testing.  http://parkersolarprobe.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/Show-Article.php?articleID=64

For Michael, the work at JHU/APL has been very rewarding. “I Enjoy watching the programs go from development, through launch and into the operational phase and helping people better understand our solar system/galaxy,” said Michael.

Parker Solar Probe employs a combination of in situ measurements and imaging to understand how the sun’s corona is heated and how the solar wind is accelerated. The mission’s specific scientific goals, as stated on the NASA website – http://parkersolarprobe.jhuapl.edu/The-Mission/index.php state:

Parker Solar Probe has three detailed science objectives:

  • Trace the flow of energy that heats and accelerates the solar corona and solar wind
  • Determine the structure and dynamics of the plasma and magnetic fields at the sources of the solar wind
  • Explore mechanisms that accelerate and transport energetic particles

An interesting side note to those in New England is that one of the Parker Solar Probe instruments is being operated by the University of New Hampshire, the alma mater of many of our Superior Controls employees as well as our Co-founder and COO, Mark LaRoche. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has also played a role in the project.

For space enthusiast, we have included some reference links:

Parker Solar Probe Mission: http://parkersolarprobe.jhuapl.edu/index.php

Mission duration: 6 years, 11 months: http://parkersolarprobe.jhuapl.edu/The-Mission/index.php#Where-Is-PSP

Milestones for fall 2018: https://blogs.nasa.gov/parkersolarprobe/2018/10/02/fall-2018-milestones-for-parker-solar-probe/