In 2025, the Parker Solar Probe will get as close to the sun's surface as it can - 6 million kilometers, meaning that the probe will fly through the hot corona.
This is one of the most daring missions that the space agency has ever envisioned and its success requires a speedy launch, notes Space.com. Among the mysteries it will attempt to unlock is the formation of the solar wind - the charged flow of particles spewing out from the sun and affecting everything in the solar system, Earth included.
On its first pass by the sun, three months after launch, the Parker Solar Probe will already be closer to the sun than any other spacecraft has ever been - about 10 million miles out, or about 65 solar radii.
Scientists expect the spacecraft's record trip, scheduled for Saturday, to offer profound insights into the nature of the sun's atmosphere, called the corona and its solar winds.
"Previous missions have been really important for solar science as we study from afar - and we can learn a lot from studying from afar - but Parker Solar Probe is actually going and touching, nearly kissing the sun, so we can learn so much more", said Elizabeth Congdon, the thermal protection system lead engineer at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.
"If all goes according to plan, the probe will take off aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket in the early morning of August 11 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida".
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Every few orbits, the probe will use Venus' gravity to adjust its trajectory slightly, to make that distance of closest approach to the sun, the perihelion, get closer and closer.
To survive temperatures of around 2,511 degrees Fahrenheit, the probe is fitted with a 4.5-inch thick, 8-foot diameter carbon shield, which keep the on-board instruments at a warm but safe 85 degrees.
"So we have the broader context with the camera, and at the same time we have the instrument suite's localized measurements", Geronimo Villanueva said.
Likewise, scientists hope the probe's small-scale, short-term analysis will improve space weather prediction models. In launch power, the Delta IV Heavy rocket is right after the new Falcon Heavy rocket - which is the most powerful rocket at the moment.
She added: "We've been studying the Sun for decades, and now we're finally going to go where the action is".
The mission will take off from Space Launch Complex 37 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.