NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Surpasses Expectations in Journey by Sun Twice

A Delta IV rocket, carrying the Parker Solar Probe, lifts off from launch complex 37 at the Kennedy Space Center, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The Parker Solar Probe will venture closer to the Sun than any other spacecraft and is protected by a first-of-its-kind heat shield and other innovative technologies that will provide unprecedented information about the Sun. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Right now, there’s a tiny little spacecraft zipping around the sun moving faster than any other man-made object has ever flown. The spacecraft, known as the Parker Solar Probe, is approaching the one-year anniversary of its launch on Aug. 12 and it’s been delivering some pretty stellar observations so far. I mean, just look at the image it snapped from inside the sun’s atmosphere back in December! After two flybys, Parker has been dumping data back to Earth for scientists to examine — and it’s exceeding researchers’ expectations.

In a blog post on Aug. 1, researchers from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which designed and built the spacecraft, announced that the Parker Solar Probe had delivered 22GB of data after its second encounter with the sun finished up on May 6, performing better than prelaunch estimates. The amount of data was 50% more than researchers previously expected to see.

“As we learned more about operating in this environment and these orbits, the team did a great job of increasing data downloads of the information gathered by the spacecraft’s amazing instrument,” said Nickalaus Pinkine, a missions operator at JHAPL.