The Solar Probe Plus Mission: Humanity’s First Visit to Our Star

N. J. Fox, M. C. Velli, S. D. Bale, R. Decker, A. Driesman, R. A. Howard, J. C. Kasper, J. Kinnison, M. Kusterer, D. Lario, M. K. Lockwood, D. J. McComas, N. E. Raouafi, A. Szabo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

397 Scopus citations

Abstract

Solar Probe Plus (SPP) will be the first spacecraft to fly into the low solar corona. SPP’s main science goal is to determine the structure and dynamics of the Sun’s coronal magnetic field, understand how the solar corona and wind are heated and accelerated, and determine what processes accelerate energetic particles. Understanding these fundamental phenomena has been a top-priority science goal for over five decades, dating back to the 1958 Simpson Committee Report. The scale and concept of such a mission has been revised at intervals since that time, yet the core has always been a close encounter with the Sun. The mission design and the technology and engineering developments enable SPP to meet its science objectives to: (1) Trace the flow of energy that heats and accelerates the solar corona and solar wind; (2) Determine the structure and dynamics of the plasma and magnetic fields at the sources of the solar wind; and (3) Explore mechanisms that accelerate and transport energetic particles. The SPP mission was confirmed in March 2014 and is under development as a part of NASA’s Living with a Star (LWS) Program. SPP is scheduled for launch in mid-2018, and will perform 24 orbits over a 7-year nominal mission duration. Seven Venus gravity assists gradually reduce SPP’s perihelion from 35 solar radii (RS) for the first orbit to <10RS for the final three orbits. In this paper we present the science, mission concept and the baseline vehicle for SPP, and examine how the mission will address the key science questions

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-48
Number of pages42
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Volume204
Issue number1-4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Keywords

  • Corona
  • Heliophysics
  • NASA mission
  • SPP
  • Solar Probe Plus
  • Solar wind

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