NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has begun its second orbit of the sun.
The craft blasted off in August on a historic mission to get closer to our star than any spacecraft ever has, and completed its first orbit back in November.
The flyby at 213,000 miles per hour took it within 15 million miles of the sun’s surface and inside the corona – and now, it’s set to do it again.
The space agency says the Parker probe is now on track for its second close approach, which it will reach on April 4.
The Parker Solar Probe will ultimately complete a total of 24 planned orbits over the next seven years, bringing it closer and closer to the surface.
Its systems turned on and officially began full operations on January 1, and the craft has been sending data back home ever since.
‘It’s been an illuminating and fascinating first orbit,’ said Parker Solar Probe Project Manager Andy Driesman, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
‘We’ve learned a lot about how the spacecraft operates and reacts to the solar environment, and I’m proud to say the team’s projections have been very accurate.’
The Parker probe’s second perihelion – or closest approach to the sun – will once again bring it about 15 million miles from the sun.
This is nearly half the distance achieved by the previous record holder, Helios 2, which came 27 million miles from the sun in 1976.
‘We’ve always said that we don’t know what to expect until we look at the data,’ said Project Scientist Nour Raouafi, also of APL.