NASA postpones launch of Parker Solar Probe

Parker Solar Probe launch delayed until Sunday

UPDATE: NASA postpones launch of Parker Solar Probe

"We'll be going where no spacecraft has dared go before - within the corona of a star", said project scientist Nicky Fox from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

The first-ever spacecraft to fly directly towards the Sun was poised to blast off on Saturday on a mission to plunge into our star's sizzling atmosphere and unlock the mysteries of the centre of the solar system. The shield is also built to sustain solar radiation levels 500 times greater than those that reach Earth.

After a last-minute technical problem forced Nasa to postpone by 24 hours the launch of its first mission to explore the Sun, the agency plans to try again on Sunday (Aug 12).

Both along the way and during its trip through the sun's corona, the solar probe's instrument suite will detect and measure the movement of the particles - electrons, protons and ions - that make up the corona, the sun's atmosphere, and the solar winds generated there.

By better understanding the basic science of solar wind - how the sun's atmospheric particles accelerate and interact - scientists hope to more accurately model larger, more complex solar phenomena, and improve space weather prediction models.

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The launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft was scrubbed today due to a violation of a launch limit, resulting in a hold. The launch window lasts 65 minutes, according to ULA.

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The probe's seven-year journey will bring it to within 6.16 million kilometers (3.83 million miles) of the sun's surface.

The powerful Delta 4 Heavy and a solid-propellant upper stage will provide the energy needed to counteract Earth's 18-mile-per-second orbital velocity, allowing the Parker Solar Probe to fall into the inner solar system.

Parker, now 91, recalled that at first some people did not believe in his theory. The agency is now targeting Sunday for the launch of the spacecraft which is created to go all the way to the Sun's atmosphere, or corona - closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history. When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel rapidly enough to go from NY to Tokyo in one minute - some 688,000kmh - making it the fastest human-made object.

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