The PSP probe (Parker Solar Probe) passed its eighth perihelion on April 29. This convergence was a record: the device flew at a distance of 10.4 million kilometers (0.07 AU) from the solar surface, and its heliocentric velocity exceeded 532 thousand km / h (147 km / c). Thus, the PSP beat its own achievement set last year.
The record was made possible by a maneuver performed by the PSP in the vicinity of Venus in February of this year. The craft used the gravity of a second planet to reduce its perihelion and get closer to our luminary. While in the vicinity of the Sun, the probe’s instruments measured the characteristics of the solar plasma and magnetic fields. After the rendezvous phase, it should contact Earth again and start transmitting the collected information.
But this is far from the limit. The mission plan assumes that in the coming years PSP will perform three gravitational maneuvers near Venus, which by the end of 2024 should reach the final 88-day orbit with perihelion, lying just 6.2 million kilometers from the solar surface. At such a distance, the spacecraft’s heat shield will heat up to 1,370°C, about three times the temperature of the illuminated side of Mercury.