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Engility supports NASA Parker Solar Probe mission to 'touch the sun'

(13 August 2018 - Engility) Engility's Independent Verification and Validation support work for NASA's Parker Solar Probe (PSP) concluded Sunday with the successful launch of the spacecraft headed to the sun's atmosphere for a historic scientific discovery mission.

"Our team has been working alongside NASA for five years to prepare this spacecraft for launch and a successful mission," said Mark Bruno, senior vice president of Engility's space and mission systems business. "It's exciting to contribute to a mission that could solve some of the biggest mysteries about the physics of our solar system."

Since 2013, Engility has provided software assurance services to NASA for the Parker Solar Probe mission at the agency's IV&V facility in Fairmont, WV. The Engility IV&V team conducted independent assessments of the probe's operation software to provide confidence that the spacecraft will operate as intended and continue its mission even under adverse conditions near the sun. Critical PSP functions depend on the correct, predictable operation of its software. Activities such as navigation, sensor operation, data gathering and communications could be seriously disrupted if the software-intensive systems that they rely on fail.

PSP will be the first spacecraft to fly into the solar corona, or the sun's atmosphere, in part to discover why the corona is on average 300 times hotter than the sun's surface. Scientists also hope to learn how the solar corona and wind are heated and accelerated to become solar storms and flares. Extreme space weather can cause adverse events on Earth, including power grid fluctuations, damage to Earth-orbiting satellites, degradation of high-frequency radio signals and exposure to higher-than-normal levels of radiation.

Among other engineering challenges Engility helped to solve, the team inspected guidance, navigation and control software to ensure the probe's unique heat shield is always oriented correctly to protect PSP from extreme radiation and heat near the Sun.

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