APL Colloquium

October 24, 2014

Colloquium Topic: Solar Probe Plus: Humanity’s First Visit to Our Star

Solar Probe Plus will be the first mission to touch the Sun – to fly into the solar corona and study how the corona is heated and the solar wind and solar energetic particles are accelerated. Solving these fundamental mysteries has been a top-priority science goal for over five decades, dating back to the 1958 Simpson Committee Report. Thanks to an innovative design, emerging technology developments and completion of a successful Phase B, answers to these critical questions are now attainable. The Solar Probe Plus mission was confirmed in March 2014 and is under active development as a part of NASA’s Living with a Star Program. SPP will: 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. 3) Explore mechanisms that accelerate and transport energetic particles. The science investigations will make the ground-breaking in situ and remote sensing measurements needed to achieve all science objectives. SPP is scheduled to launch in 2018, and will perform 24 orbits over a 7-year nominal mission duration. The mission design utilizes seven Venus gravity assists to gradually reduce perihelion from 35 solar radii (Rs) in the first orbit to <10 Rs for the final three orbits. The SPP spacecraft is 685kg at launch, 3m in height and 2.3m in diameter at the thermal protection system (TPS). At a distance of 9.86 Rs, the solar intensity is ~475 times that at 1AU. The SPP spacecraft hides behind the Carbon-Carbon, carbon foam TPS to protect it from this extreme solar environment and allow it to operate at standard spacecraft thermal environments while the TPS experiences temperatures of 1200°C on its sun-facing surface. SPP utilizes an actively cooled solar array for power generation maintaining the solar cell assemblies within required temperature limits. This presentation presents the science overview, mission concept, and the Baseline Vehicle as of mission confirmation.

Colloquium Speaker: Nicky Fox

Dr. Nicky Fox is the Project Scientist for the Solar Probe Plus (SPP) mission. Her main role is to ensure the scientific integrity of the mission and she represents the SPP science team in all aspects of the project, leads the Science Working Group activities and liaises with the mission engineering team and the NASA/Goddard and Headquarters program offices. Nicky is also the Deputy Project Scientist for the Van Allen Probes Mission.

Dr. Fox is a science leader with extensive project and program science team leadership experience. She has extensive supervisory experience with diverse staff. She has more 80 significant communications (journal articles and professional talks) and has developed and delivered science presentations at high profile mission events and given numerous TV interviews on the subject of Heliophysics and Space Physics. She also serves as an Associate Editor for EOS, and a member of the AGU Executive Committee.

Nicky was born in Hitchin, Hertfordshire in England. She graduated from The Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London with a B.Sc. in Physics (1990). She received an M.Sc. in Telematics and Satellite Communications from the University of Surrey (1991), and then returned to Imperial College to complete a PhD in Space and Atmospheric Physics (1995). She moved to Maryland in 1995 and worked at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center until 1998, receiving a number of NASA awards for outstanding performance. Subsequently in 1998, Nicky moved to the Applied Physics Laboratory, where is a member of the Space Exploration Sector.