Sierra Nevada Corporation provides hardware for mission to the sun

August 13, 2018

As NASA’s Parker Solar Probe spacecraft begins its historic journey toward the sun, it is equipped with components supplied by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) that will perform mission-critical functions. The components were provided from both SNC’s Louisville, Colorado and Durham, North Carolina production facilities to the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory for the spacecraft.  

“This mission is pushing the boundaries of spacecraft engineering to deliver much needed answers,” said Matt Johnson, vice president of programs for SNC’s Space Systems business area. “Space weather is causing tangible negative effects on satellites today, and we’re proud to be part of a mission that will help us understand the origin.” 

The Parker Solar Probe will travel seven times closer to the sun than any previous mission. The mission aims to help scientists better understand solar wind, flares and energy particles, which creates ‘space weather’ throughout the solar system. Space weather can have negative impacts on satellites, harm humans in space and affect power systems and communications on Earth.  Launched August 12 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Parker Solar Probe will travel up to 430,000 mph and its heat shield will reach temperatures of 2,500°F.  

SNC Parts Provided: 

  • Water Coolant Pump Motors:
    • Circulate a gallon of water through tubes, effectively cooling the solar arrays
  • Passive thermal louvers:
    • Radiate excess heat without drawing power away from critical systems
  • Solar Array Drive Actuators
    • Tuck and deploy solar arrays around the 4.5-inch composite heat shield
  • Antenna Gimbal Actuator
    • Move and point the communications antenna back to Earth with extreme precision
  • Electronic control unit
    • Provides smooth control for the solar array drive and antenna gimbal actuators