How the Parker Solar Probe Survives Close Encounters With the Sun

An elaborate cooling system is designed to protect the space probe through sizzling flybys


11 min read
Illustration of the Parker Solar Probe in orbit around the sun.
Illustration: NASA

Over the past six decades, 12 people have walked on the moon, spacecraft have visited every planet from Mercury to Neptune, and four rovers have racked up more than 60 kilometers traveling on the surface of Mars. And yet, despite the billions of dollars spent on the world’s civilian space programs, never has a probe journeyed very close to the sun. The nearest approach, by the Helios B probe in 1976, came no closer than 43 million km.

Why is that? There’s been no lack of interest in the sun—quite the opposite. Of all extraterrestrial bodies, the sun has the largest influence on us: It controls the radiation doses that astronauts experience and also affects the electronics in the myriad satellites on which we increasingly rely. Solar storms can even disrupt electric power grids, as famously happened in 1989, when one such storm blacked out the entire province of Quebec and caused ripple effects on electric grids in the United States.

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"SuperGPS" Accurate to 10 Centimeters or Better

New optical-wireless hybrid makes use of existing telecommunications infrastructure

3 min read
illustration of man looking at giant smart phone with map and red "you are here" symbol
iStock

Modern life now often depends on GPS(short for Global Positioning System), but it can err on the order of meters in cities. Now a new study from a team of Dutch researchers reveals a terrestrial positioning system based on existing telecommunications networks can deliver geolocation info accurate to within 10 centimeters in metropolitan areas.

The scientists detailed their findings 16 November in the journal Nature.

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The Future of the Transistor Is Our Future

Nothing but better devices can tackle humanity’s growing challenges

7 min read
Close-up of a colorful semiconductor wafer held the white gloved hands of a clean room technician.

A 300-millimeter wafer from a GlobalFoundries fab in Dresden is full of advanced transistors. The industry will need to continue to produce more and better devices, argues the author.

Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz/Bloomberg/Getty Images

This is a guest post in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the invention of the transistor. It is adapted from an essay in the July 2022 IEEE Electron Device Society Newsletter. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE.

On the 75th anniversary of the invention of the transistor, a device to which I have devoted my entire career, I’d like to answer two questions: Does the world need better transistors? And if so, what will they be like?

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FAST Labs’ Cutting-Edge R&D Gets Ideas to the Field Faster

BAE Systems’ FAST Labs engineers turn breakthrough innovations into real-life impact

1 min read

FAST Labs is an R&D organization where research teams can invent and see their work come to life.

BAE Systems

This is a sponsored article brought to you by BAE Systems.

No one sets out to put together half a puzzle. Similarly, researchers and engineers in the defense industry want to see the whole picture – seeing their innovations make it into the hands of warfighters and commercial customers.

That desire is fueling growth at BAE Systems’ FAST Labs research and development (R&D) organization.

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