May 7, 2020
The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) team managing NASA’s Parker Solar Probe mission was recognized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) with the von Braun Award for Excellence in Space Program Management.
APL’s Andy Driesman, the Parker Solar Probe project manager; Patrick Hill, deputy project manager; and Kim Cooper, deputy project manager for instruments during the development phase, were lauded for balancing elements from science requirements and budgets to schedule and engineering development for the historic voyage to explore the Sun’s blistering environment and mysterious solar wind.
“We applaud the entire APL team for this award,” said Jason Kalirai, mission area executive for Civil Space at APL. “Andy, Patrick and Kim led the management of the historic Parker Solar Probe mission from concept to completion, and we are thrilled that they are being recognized for all of the hard work they put in.”
Physicist Eugene Parker first theorized the existence of the solar wind — the fast-moving flow of particles emanating from the Sun’s surface — in 1958. It took almost 60 years to design a revolutionary spacecraft that could withstand the intense heat and radiation that awaited it in the Sun’s corona. APL began developing Parker Solar Probe — named for Eugene Parker, in a nod to his bold theory — in earnest in 2015.
Driesman and the management team oversaw all elements of spacecraft development, including a broad team of industry, academic and government partners and suppliers, while also shepherding the technical, cost and schedule planning for the mission. Hill joined the mission as deputy program manager in 2014 and guided the day-to-day progress of spacecraft development and operations, including integration, test, launch and in-flight commissioning of Parker Solar Probe’s systems and science instruments. Cooper supervised the development of the onboard instruments, directing teams from four partner institutions, including the University of California, Berkeley; Princeton University; Naval Research Laboratory; and University of Michigan/Smithsonian Astrophysics Observatory.
APL designed and built the spacecraft and key technologies enabling the mission for NASA, including the protective heat shield that maintains the spacecraft’s temperature; a cooling system for the spacecraft’s solar arrays; and autonomous systems that adjust the heat shield’s alignment as it passes around the Sun. Parker Solar Probe launched on Aug. 12, 2018. APL continues to operate the seven-year mission for NASA.
“It truly takes a team to realize a vision like the Parker Solar Probe mission,” Driesman said. “I’m proud of our technical team, as well as my fellow project managers, Patrick and Kim, all of whom spent countless hours, days and years to get us through launch. The groundbreaking science is a great reward.”
Parker Solar Probe has completed four of its planned 24 orbits around the Sun. It will eventually travel within 4 million miles of the Sun’s surface, providing unprecedented data on solar activity and the workings of the solar corona, which contributes significantly to our ability to forecast major space weather events that impact life on Earth.
Follow the mission at http://parkersolarprobe.jhuapl.edu.
Media contact: Justyna Surowiec, 240-228-8103, Justyna.Surowiec@jhuapl.edu
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 www.jhuapl.edu.