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February 22, 2018

Johns Hopkins APL Named as One of Fast Company’s 2018 “Most Innovative Companies”

The APL Satellite Communications Facility team

Fast Company named Johns Hopkins APL as one of the 2018 World’s Most Innovative Companies for Space for the Laboratory’s design and construction of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which will be the first spacecraft to fly through the Sun’s corona. Launch is scheduled for July 31, 2018, from Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

For creating the first-ever spacecraft designed to fly through the inferno of the Sun’s corona, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory has earned a place as one of Fast Company’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Space for 2018.

The Laboratory was named eighth on Fast Company’s list of the Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Space alongside SpaceX and Blue Origin.

APL was honored for the design and construction of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe spacecraft, scheduled for launch on July 31, 2018, and in particular the mission’s revolutionary heat shield, known as the thermal protection system (TPS). The TPS, designed with support from the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, is constructed with carbon-carbon foam and special plasma-treated coatings that will keep the spacecraft behind the shield at roughly room temperature, while the outside of the TPS reaches almost 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We are very proud of our history in space exploration, including the New Horizons mission’s historic first flyby of Pluto two years ago. Right now, we could not be more excited about the breakthroughs we have achieved with Parker Solar Probe,” said APL Director Ralph Semmel. “Teams from across the Laboratory, NASA, Johns Hopkins University, and industry came together to solve countless challenges that were once thought to be impossible to overcome. The payoff from the hard work is awesome — we have built the first spacecraft that will touch the Sun!”

In 2016, APL was named Fast Company’s fifth most innovative company in health care for its work on DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, which created dozens of new technologies, including the world’s first neurally controlled artificial arm and hand.

To protect NASA’s Parker Solar Probe from the intense heat of the Sun’s atmosphere, scientists and engineers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory developed a revolutionary Thermal Protection System, or TPS. This heat shield, made of carbon-carbon composite material, will experience temperatures of almost 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,370 degrees Celsius) as the spacecraft hurdles through the solar atmosphere, while keeping the instruments on the spacecraft at room temperature. The TPS is shown here entering space environment testing at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Media contact: Geoff Brown, 240-228-5618,

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit

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