Parker completes 17th close fly-by of the Sun, setting new records

The Parker Solar Probe on September 27, 2023 completed its seventeenth close fly-by of the Sun, setting new speed and distance records.

Set up by a gravity-assist flyby of Venus on Aug. 21, the close approach (known as perihelion) occurred at 7:28 p.m. EDT, with Parker Solar Probe moving 394,736 miles per hour (635,266 kilometers per hour) around the Sun – another record. The milestone also marked the midway point in the mission’s 17th solar encounter, which began Sept. 22 and continues through Oct. 3.

It zipped past the Sun at a distance of only 4.51 million miles, also a record.

Whether it survived this fly-by will not be confirmed until October 1, when it is able to safely send its first data back after moving far enough away from the Sun to reopen communications.

Parker completes 16th orbit of the Sun

On June 22, 2023 the Parker Solar Probe completed its 16th close approach to the Sun, passing within 5.3 million miles of the solar surface while moving at 364,610 miles per hour.

The mission team at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, noted the close approach was preceded by a small trajectory correction maneuver (TCM) on June 7 —​ the first course correction since March 2022. Mission Design and Navigation Manager​ Yanping Guo of APL said TCMs are performed periodically to ensure that the​ spacecraft remains on course, and the latest maneuver kept Parker on track to hit the “aim point” for the mission’s sixth Venus flyby on Aug. 21. ​

With each perihelion now, Parker sets new records of speed. No human spacecraft has ever flown so fast.

Scientists claim to identify cause of Sun’s fast solar wind

The uncertainty of science: Using data from the Parker Solar Probe, scientists now believe they have identified the cause of Sun’s fast solar wind that streams from the magnetic regions on the Sun that are dubbed coronal holes.

In a paper published June 7, 2023 in the journal Nature, a team of researchers used data from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to explain how the solar wind is capable of surpassing speeds of 1 million miles per hour. They discovered that the energy released from the magnetic field near the sun’s surface is powerful enough to drive the fast solar wind, which is made up of ionized particles—called plasma—that flow outward from the sun.

The results depend a great deal on computer modeling, based on our presently limited understanding of magnetic field processes in environments like stars. It will need to be confirmed by more data from Parker as well as later probes.

Parker images the surface of Venus

Parker image compared to radar maps of Venus
For original images go here and here.

During its flybys of Venus in July 2020 and February 2021 the Parker Solar Probe used its wide field camera to take images of the night side of Venus in red optical and near infrared wavelengths, essentially measuring the heat (in the range of 863 degrees Fahrenheit) being emitted by the planet’s surface.

The resulting images, the first orbital photos of Venus’ surface in the optical, showed continent-sized surface details that matched previously made radar maps, and confirmed as expected that the higher altitudes are cooler than the lower.

The paper outlining these results can be read here.

The two pictures to the right compare previous radar maps (on the right) with the new Parker image (on the left). The central dark and cooler area is a region called Aphrodite Terra, which like Earth’s continents sits higher than the surrounding terrain.

Note that though cooler, the surface at these dark areas is still hellishly hot, more than 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Exploring the surface of Venus is going to be a far far far more challenging task that going to Mars.

Scientists confirm Parker entered Sun’s corona in April 2021

Scientists yesterday announced that the Parker Solar Probe successfully entered the Sun’s corona for the first time during its April 2021 close fly-by.

More information here, including some excellent short movies made from images created by Parker’s instruments.

The top edge of the corona is dubbed the Alfvén surface, and Parker’s passage across that boundary three different times during the April ’21 fly-by revealed it to be a sharp boundary that also has a great deal of topography. From the second link:

The first time Parker passed the Alfvén surface was the longest; it flew through the atmosphere for about five hours. Even as it continued flying toward the Sun, though, it popped back out, only to submerge again more deeply when it was at its closest approach — but briefly, that time exiting after just half an hour. Then, on its way outward, the spacecraft once again skimmed beneath the surface for a few hours.

“[The Alfvén surface] has to be wrinkly,” Kasper says. “It’s not fuzzy — it’s well-defined while we’re under it — but the surface has some structure to it.” So while the probe sees a smooth change in conditions while crossing the boundary, where the boundary is can change. The reason for this wrinkly surface is still an open question, though the researchers suspect the crossing over a pseudostreamer lower in the corona pushed the boundary out to enable the first crossing.

What’s clear is that inside the Sun’s atmosphere, conditions are different than just outside. Parker saw plasma waves moving back and forth instead of flowing outward. That difference was visible not just to the SWEAP and FIELDS instruments, which measure particles and electric and magnetic fields, respectively, but also to the probe’s WISPR imager.

The Parker science team also indicated that the preliminary data from the probe’s next two fly-bys — the most recent in November that was the closest yet — suggest it passed through the corona then as well.

One of the biggest unsolved mysteries about the Sun’s corona is that it appears to have a temperature in the millions of degrees, far hotter than the Sun’s surface below, something that is counter-intuitive. The expectation was that the atmosphere would be cooler than the surface. Finding out why the corona is hotter is one of the main science goals of Parker. It appears the probe is finally gathering data that might help solve that mystery.

Europe’s Solar Orbiter to make last flyby of Earth

Solar Orbiter, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) probe to work in tandem with NASA Parker Solar Probe in studying the inner regions surrounding the Sun, will make last flyby of Earth on November 27, 2021, thus putting it into its planned science orbit.

While the press release gives a good overview of the mission, it focuses on the risk during that fly-by of the spacecraft hitting something during its close approach.

Solar Orbiter’s Earth flyby takes place on 27 November. At 04:30 GMT (05:30 CET) on that day, the spacecraft will be at its closest approach, just 460 km above North Africa and the Canary Islands. This is almost as close as the orbit of the International Space Station.

The manoeuvre is essential to decrease the energy of the spacecraft and line it up for its next close pass of the Sun but it comes with a risk. The spacecraft must pass through two orbital regions, each of which is populated with space debris.

The first is the geostationary ring of satellites at 36 000 km, and the second is the collection of low Earth orbits at around 400 km. As a result, there is a small risk of a collision. Solar Orbiter’s operations team are monitoring the situation very closely and will alter the spacecraft’s trajectory if it appears to be in any danger.

While there is a risk, it seems to me that ESA is taking advantage of the recent news outburst in connection with the Russian anti-sat test and the space junk it created to sell this mission. The risk of impact during this fly-by is very low, especially in the geostationary ring.

Parker probe completes fifth Venus flyby

The Parker Solar Probe on October 16th successfully completed its fifth flyby of Venus, designed to lower its solar orbit around the Sun.

At just after 5:30 a.m. EDT, moving about 15 miles (24 kilometers) per second, the spacecraft swooped 2,370 miles (3,814 kilometers) above Venus’ surface. Such gravity assists are essential to the mission to bring Parker Solar Probe progressively closer to the Sun; the spacecraft counts on the planet to reduce its orbital energy, which in turn allows it to travel closer to the Sun and measure the properties of the solar wind near its source.

This was the fifth of seven planned Venus gravity assists. The flyby reduced Parker Solar Probe’s orbital speed by about 6,040 miles per hour (9,720 kilometers per hour), and set it up for its 10th close pass (or perihelion) by the Sun, on Nov. 21.

Parker Solar Probe will break its own distance and speed records on that closest approach, when it comes approximately 5.3 million miles (8.5 million kilometers) from the Sun’s surface — some 1.2 million miles (1.9 million kilometers) closer than the previous perihelion on Aug. 13 – while reaching 101 miles (163 kilometers) per second, or 364,621 miles per hour. Assisted by two more Venus flybys, in August 2023 and November 2024, Parker Solar Probe will eventually come within 4 million miles (6.2 million kilometers) of the solar surface in December 2024.

That speed record, 364,621 miles per hour, is the fastest any human built object as ever traveled.

Third set of new results from Parker released

The scientists using the Parker Solar Probe on June 2nd released their third set of new results as part of a special issue of the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The latest articles include data analysis, theory, and modeling. Among the major topics covered are magnetic switchbacks first discovered by Parker Solar Probe, the role of waves in heating solar plasma, solar angular momentum, the near-Sun dust environment, and the diversity of small energetic-particle events.

The most interesting paper I think is the one describing data that lends strong weight to the theory, proposed in 1929 by astronomer Henry Norris Russell, that a dust-free zone exists close to the Sun and all stars. From the abstract:

The observed brightness decrease in the axis of symmetry is interpreted as the signature of the existence of a dust density depletion zone between about 19 [solar radii] and 3 [solar radii] which at the inner limit of WISPR’s field of view of 7.65 [solar radii] has a dust density that is ~5% lower than the density at 19 [solar radii], instead of the expected density which is three times if no depletion zone exists.

In plain English, the data shows that from about 1.3 million to 8.2 million miles from the Sun Parker found far less dust than predicted by other models. As the probe continues to lower its orbit and get closer to the Sun with each fly-by these numbers will be better refined, and are likely to in the end prove Russell’s hypothesis.

Parker makes course correction

On May 15th the Parker Solar Probe made the first of three small adjustments to its orbital path in order to refine its path during an October 16th fly-by of Venus, which in turn will make more precise its next three Venus fly-bys and thus bring it closer and closer to the Sun.

[The] Parker Solar Probe just completed its eighth close approach to the Sun, coming within a record 6.5 million miles (10.4 million kilometers) of the Sun’s surface on April 29. It’ll pass the Sun from about the same distance again on Aug. 9, before using Venus’ gravity on Oct. 16 to swing it even closer to the surface — about 5.6 million miles (9 million kilometers) — on Nov. 21. Assisted by the remaining three Venus flybys, Parker Solar Probe will eventually come within 4 million miles (6.4 million kilometers) of the solar surface.

The spacecraft remains healthy and continues to gather data with each fly-by of the both the Sun and Venus.

Parker completes 7th solar fly-by, sets new records

The Parker Solar Probe this week successfully completed its seventh close fly-by of the Sun, coming within 8.4 million miles and traveling at almost 300,000 miles per hour.

Nor is that all for 2021:

The spacecraft will make three more progressively close passes to the Sun in 2021 alone, as well as two gravity-assist flybys at Venus in February and October to adjust the trajectory of its orbit. After zipping past Venus on Feb. 20, Parker Solar Probe will again make close approaches to the Sun on April 29 and Aug. 9. Following another Venus gravity assist on Oct. 16, the spacecraft will make an even closer solar pass on Nov. 21, with perihelion just 5.3 million miles from the Sun’s surface.

Because the fly-bys of Venus are shrinking Parker’s solar orbit, the time between solar fly-bys is also shrinking.

Parker completes record-setting sixth Sun fly-by

The Parker Solar Probe has successfully completed its sixth close fly-by of the Sun, flying as close as 8.4 million miles, the closest any spacecraft has ever gotten to the Sun, while also moving at a record speed of 289,927 miles per hour.

Flight controllers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, received a “Status A” signal from the spacecraft through NASA’s Deep Space Network at 4:45 a.m. EDT; Status A is the best of four possible status signals, and indicates that the spacecraft is operating nominally.

The beacon comes after a six-day stretch when communications with the spacecraft were not possible as it wheeled around the Sun. This is the first sign of a successful solar encounter; this sixth solar encounter began Sept. 21 and continues through Oct. 2.

Future fly-bys will likely break this record as well.

Parker successfully completes fifth solar fly-by

The Parker Solar Probe has signaled scientists that it has successfully completed its fifth solar fly-by without damage.

On June 9, 2020, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe signaled the success of its fifth close pass by the Sun, called perihelion, with a radio beacon tone. The spacecraft completed the fifth perihelion of its mission two days prior, flying within 11.6 million miles from the Sun’s surface, reaching a top speed of about 244,225 miles per hour, which matches the spacecraft’s own records for closest human-made object to the Sun and fastest human-made object, set during its fourth orbit on January 29.

Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, received a “status A” beacon from the spacecraft at 4:40 p.m. EDT. Status A is the best of four possible status signals, and indicates that the spacecraft is operating nominally and the instrument suites are collecting science data. This beacon tone comes after a five-day period where communications with the spacecraft were not possible.

The data from this fly-by will arrive during the summer. Meanwhile, the spacecraft will next do a fly-by of Venus to slow it down further so that it can get even closer to the Sun on its next orbit.

Parker extends length of science operations during upcoming fifth solar fly-by

The science team for the Parker Solar Probe have decided to extend the period the spacecraft’s instruments are operating during its fifth close fly-by of the Sun, based on the data they have obtained from the first four fly-bys.

On May 9, 2020, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe began its longest observation campaign to date. The spacecraft, which has already completed four progressively closer orbits around the Sun, activated its instruments at a distance of 62.5 million miles from the Sun’s surface, some 39 million miles farther from the Sun than a typical solar encounter. The four instrument suites will continue to collect data through June 28, markedly longer than the mission’s standard 11-day encounters.

The nearly two-month campaign is spurred by Parker Solar Probe’s earlier observations, which revealed significant rotation of the solar wind and solar wind phenomena occurring much farther from the Sun than previously thought. The earlier activation of the science instruments allows the team to cover a larger range in order to trace the evolution of the solar wind as it moves away from the Sun.

Perihelion will occur on June 7 at a distance of 11.6 million miles from the Sun. That will match the previous record set during Parker’s previous orbit for the closest solar fly-by ever. They will then follow this with another fly-by of Venus, which will tighten the orbit even more.

New solar results from Parker

Scientists have released a new set of science results from the Parker Solar Probe, all part of a special issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

From the introduction to the journal issue:

Over the past year and a half, PSP returned an enormous amount of science data that drew a new picture of the source region of the solar wind. The first discoveries of the mission were reported in the Nature magazine on 2019 December 4. This special issue of the Astrophysical Journal Supplement series consists of over 50 science papers that provide more detailed analyses of the data from the first two orbits.

Most of the results are very technical, relating to detailed phenomenon of the near solar environment, and are in a sense very preliminary. They are essentially still gathering data. It appears too soon for them to come to any solid conclusions yet.

First results from Parker released

Scientists today published four papers outlining the first scientific results obtained during the first two close fly-bys of the Sun by the Parker Solar Probe.

The four papers, now available online from the journal Nature, describe Parker’s unprecedented near-Sun observations through two record-breaking close flybys. They reveal new insights into the processes that drive the solar wind – the constant outflow of hot, ionized gas that streams outward from the Sun and fills up the solar system – and how the solar wind couples with solar rotation. Through these flybys, the mission also has examined the dust of the coronal environment, and spotted particle acceleration events so small that they are undetectable from Earth, which is nearly 93 million miles from the Sun.

During its initial flybys, Parker studied the Sun from a distance of about 15 million miles. That is already closer to the Sun than Mercury, but the spacecraft will get even closer in the future, as it travels at more than 213,000 mph, faster than any previous spacecraft.

Details about the four main takeaways are described at the link. None of the discoveries is earth-shaking but all help scientists better understand the Sun’s inner atmosphere.

Parker completes third fly-by of Sun

The Parker Solar Probe has completed its third close fly-by of the Sun.

At just before 1:50 p.m. EDT on Sept. 1, 2019, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe completed its third close approach of the Sun, called perihelion. At the time of perihelion, the spacecraft was about 15 million miles from the Sun’s surface, traveling at more than 213,200 miles per hour.

Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, received a green “A” beacon from the spacecraft soon after perihelion, meaning all systems were performing as designed and that the spacecraft was in good health.

As they had the science instruments turned on sooner during this close approach, and will let them operate longer afterward, they will get more data then on the previous two close approaches.

Parker to extend instrument operations in future solar fly-bys

The engineering and science team for the Parker Solar Probe have decided they can turn on its science instruments for a longer period during future solar fly-bys, and have now done so for its upcoming third approach.

Parker Solar Probe turned on its four instrument suites on Aug. 16, 2019 — earlier than during its previous two solar encounters, extending the observation period from 11 days to about 35 days.

During the spacecraft’s first two solar encounters, the science instruments were turned on when Parker was about 0.25 AU from the Sun and powered off again at the same distance on the outbound side of the orbit. (One AU, or astronomical unit, is about 93 million miles, the average distance between the Sun and Earth.) For this third solar encounter, the mission team turned on the instruments when the spacecraft was around 0.45 AU from the Sun on the inbound side of its orbit and will turn them off when the spacecraft is about 0.5 AU from the Sun on the outbound side.

This decision will allow them to get more data about the solar wind from farther from the Sun.

Parker survives its second close Sun flyby

The Parker Solar probe has survived its second solar flyby, passing within fifteen million miles of the Sun on April 4.

It was moving at 213,000 miles per hour at that moment, which is probably a speed record for any human vehicle. That however is a record Parker will likely break on future fly-bys.

The entire close encounter runs from March 30 to April 10, during which the spacecraft gathers data about the Sun’s inner corona (the sun’s atmosphere).

Parker about to do its second close fly-by of Sun

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.

Parker begins second orbit around Sun

The Parker Solar Probe has completed its first full orbit of the Sun and has begun full science operations.

On Jan. 19, 2019, just 161 days after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe completed its first orbit of the Sun, reaching the point in its orbit farthest from our star, called aphelion. The spacecraft has now begun the second of 24 planned orbits, on track for its second perihelion, or closest approach to the Sun, on April 4, 2019.

Parker Solar Probe entered full operational status (known as Phase E) on Jan. 1, with all systems online and operating as designed. The spacecraft has been delivering data from its instruments to Earth via the Deep Space Network, and to date more than 17 gigabits of science data has been downloaded. The full dataset from the first orbit will be downloaded by April.

They have been somewhat tight-lipped about any results from the data already obtained. I suspect it has not yet been analyzed fully, and the scientists are reserving comment until they complete their first science papers and get them published.

Parker reports in

Scientists have received confirmation from the Parker Solar Probe that it successfully survived its first close fly-by of the Sun and that all its instruments were able to gather data.

All Parker Solar Probe systems are operating well and as designed. The solid state recorder on the spacecraft indicated that, as planned, the four instrument suites had recorded a significant amount of data, which is scheduled to be downloaded to Earth via the Deep Space Network over several weeks starting Dec. 7. In addition to helping scientists begin to explore fundamental questions about the physics of our star, the data from this initial perihelion — collected closer to the Sun than any before — will help instrument teams calibrate Parker Solar Probe’s instruments and plan future observations.

Parker will repeat this many times over the next seven years. And while it will provide us a ton of new knowledge about the Sun, it will also be proving out technology that future solar system travelers will use to get closer such hostile environments.

Parker survives first close solar fly-by

The Parker Solar Probe has successfully survived its first close fly-by of the Sun.

Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab received the status beacon from the spacecraft at 4:46 p.m. EST on Nov. 7, 2018. The beacon indicates status “A” — the best of all four possible status signals, meaning that Parker Solar Probe is operating well with all instruments running and collecting science data and, if there were any minor issues, they were resolved autonomously by the spacecraft.

At its closest approach on Nov. 5, called perihelion, Parker Solar Probe reached a top speed of 213,200 miles per hour, setting a new record for spacecraft speed. Along with new records for the closest approach to the Sun, Parker Solar Probe will repeatedly break its own speed record as its orbit draws closer to the star and the spacecraft travels faster and faster at perihelion.

It will be several weeks before they can download all the data gathered during this first fly-by.

Parker begins first perihelion fly-by of Sun

It’s getting hot in here: The Parker Solar Probe has begun its first close orbital fly-by of the Sun, set to last from now until November 11.

This solar encounter encompasses the first perihelion of the mission, the point at which Parker Solar Probe is closest to the Sun. Perihelion is expected at about 10:28 p.m. EST on Nov. 5. The spacecraft will come within 15 million miles of the Sun’s surface and clock in at a top speed of 213,200 miles per hour relative to the Sun — setting new records for both closest solar approach and top heliocentric speed by a spacecraft. At perihelion, Parker Solar Probe will fly through material at about 3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit — but because material in this region is so tenuous, it doesn’t influence the temperature of the spacecraft. However, the Sun’s intense radiation heats the Sun-facing side of the spacecraft’s heat shield, called the Thermal Protection System, to about 820 F.

For several days around the Nov. 5 perihelion, Parker Solar Probe will be completely out of contact with Earth because of interference from the Sun’s overwhelming radio emissions.

The article provides some nice details about the spacecraft’s design.

Parker sets new records in its flight to the Sun

The Parker Solar Probe has set two new space records, first for making the closest approach to the Sun as well as becoming the fastest spacecraft ever.

The spacecraft passed the current record of 26.55 million miles from the Sun’s surface on Oct. 29, 2018, at about 1:04 p.m. EDT, as calculated by the Parker Solar Probe team. The previous record for closest solar approach was set by the German-American Helios 2 spacecraft in April 1976. As the Parker Solar Probe mission progresses, the spacecraft will repeatedly break its own records, with a final close approach of 3.83 million miles from the Sun’s surface expected in 2024.

“It’s been just 78 days since Parker Solar Probe launched, and we’ve now come closer to our star than any other spacecraft in history,” said Project Manager Andy Driesman, from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “It’s a proud moment for the team, though we remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins on Oct. 31.”

Parker Solar Probe is also expected to break the record for fastest spacecraft traveling relative to the Sun on Oct. 29 at about 10:54 p.m. EDT. The current record for heliocentric speed is 153,454 miles per hour, set by Helios 2 in April 1976.

We ain’t seen nothin’ yet. This is only the first orbit. With each later orbit the spacecraft will zip past the Sun faster, and closer.

Parker looks back at Earth

Earth and Moon, taken by the Parker Solar Probe

The Parker Solar Probe, flying inward towards its first close fly-by of the Sun, has looked back at the Earth and snapped its picture.

The image was captured by the WISPR (Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe) instrument, which is the only imaging instrument on board Parker Solar Probe. During science phases, WISPR sees structures within the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona, before they pass over the spacecraft.

…Zooming in on Earth reveals a slight bulge on the right side: that is the Moon, just peeking out from behind Earth. At the time the image was taken, Parker Solar Probe was about 27 million miles from Earth.

The importance of this image is that it demonstrates that the spacecraft’s camera is working properly, and that the spacecraft itself can point accurately.

All instruments check out on the Parker Solar Probe

The initial check out of the Parker Solar Probe, now on its way to the Sun, has shown all instruments are functioning properly.

“All instruments returned data that not only serves for calibration, but also captures glimpses of what we expect them to measure near the Sun to solve the mysteries of the solar atmosphere, the corona,” said Nour Raouafi, Parker Solar Probe project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland.

The mission’s first close approach to the Sun will be in November 2018, but even now, the instruments are able to gather measurements of what’s happening in the solar wind closer to Earth.

The spacecraft will make its first fly-by of Venus in October.

Update on the Parker Solar Probe

Link here. The press release notes that the spacecraft’s instruments are one by one being made operational without problem and that it has also successfully completed a second course adjustment.

The release also provided a link to a page which will shows the probe’s present location. This is useful, as it also shows the probe’s position in relation to the Sun, Venus, and the Earth.

Parker makes first course adjustment

The Parker Solar Probe successfully made its first mid-course correction burn yesterday.

Spacecraft controllers at the mission operation center initiated the two-part TCM-1 [trajectory correction maneuver] beginning at 6:00 a.m. EDT on Aug. 19 with a 44-second burn of the engines. The majority of the engine firing, which lasted just over seven minutes, began at 6:00 a.m. EDT on Aug. 20.

The spacecraft is now traveling at almost forty thousand miles per hour, easily enough to escape the solar system. Its course however is such that it will instead zip past the Sun, at closer distances after each orbit and Venus flyby.