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The Parker Solar Probe is now approaching its second close fly-by of the Sun, set to occur on April 4.
During this solar encounter phase, which lasts until April 10, the spacecraft’s four suites of science instruments are fully operational and storing science data collected from within the Sun’s corona. As designed, Parker Solar Probe will be out of contact with Earth for several days during the solar encounter. This allows the spacecraft to prioritize keeping its heat shield, called the Thermal Protection System, oriented towards the Sun, rather than pointing its transmitter towards Earth. Science data from this second solar encounter phase will downlink to Earth over several weeks later in spring 2019.
This fly-by the spacecraft will match the record of 15 million miles set during the first orbit as the closest any human spacecraft has ever gotten to the Sun. Future orbits however will get closer.