- Conference date: 17–22 June 2012
- Location: Big Island, Hawaii
The NASA Solar Probe Plus (SPP) mission will be the first spacecraft to pass through the sub-Alfvénic solar corona. The objectives of the mission are to trace the flow of energy that heats and accelerates the solar corona and solar wind, to determine the structure and dynamics of the plasma and magnetic fields at the sources of the solar wind, and to explore mechanisms that accelerate and transport energetic particles. The Solar Wind Electrons, Alphas, and Protons (SWEAP) Investigation instrument suite on SPP will measure the bulk solar wind conditions in the inner heliosphere. SWEAP consists of the Solar Probe Cup (SPC), a sun-pointing Faraday Cup, and the Solar Probe ANalyzers (SPAN), a set of 3 electrostatic analyzers that will reside in the penumbra of SPP's thermal protection system and measure solar wind ions and electrons. SPP is scheduled to launch in 2018 into an equatorial solar orbit where a sequence of Venus gravity assists will gradually lower its closest solar approach to within 9.5 solar radii (R S ) of the center of the Sun. The photon flux at 9.5 R S is more than 500 times greater than at 1 AU and therefore presents a design challenge for SPC, which will point directly at the Sun. SPC is derived from the Faraday cup instruments successfully flown on spacecraft from the beginning of the space age, but updated with high temperature materials to operate through the solar encounters. Current work includes both instrument design and the development of a testing approach capable of demonstrating adequate performance in encounter conditions. This paper will briefly discuss the suite as a whole, and then focus on the design and capabilities of SPC. We will also present the planned calibration and characterization of the instrument and the testing required to demonstrate the technological readiness of the design.
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