The previous record was set by the German-American collaboration Helios 2 in April 1976. Like the Parker Solar Probe, Helios 2 was a probe sent into solar (heliocentric) orbit to study the processes on the Sun. Helios 2 also set the heliocentric orbit speed record, hitting a top speed of 246,960 kilometres per hour, also in April 1976.
Parker is expected to beat the Helios 2 heliocentric speed record (measured with respect to the Sun) on 29th October. It is also expected to beat the geocentric speed record on its final pass around the Sun, hitting an estimated top speed of 692,017 km/h – although that won't be until 2025.
Between now and June 2025, Parker is going to complete 24 perihelions, moving between Venus and then looping inside the Sun's corona to get the closest observations we've ever taken of our amazing star.
Parker's first encounter with the Sun will commence this Wednesday, 31st October, reaching its first perihelion at 10:28 pm EST on 5th November.
Image credit: (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben)