NASA, ULA to try again tonight to launch Parker Solar Probe

NASA, ULA to try again tonight to launch Parker Solar Probe

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

When it does launch, the Parker Solar Probe will get as close as 3.83 million miles to the sun's surface.

Nestled atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy - one of the world's most powerful rockets - with a third stage added, Parker Solar Probe will blast off toward the Sun with a whopping 55 times more energy than is required to reach Mars.

The Parker Solar Probe was to touch our hot star with its lift off scheduled for August 11 from Nasa's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Parker Solar Probe is the fourth mission this year for NASA's Launch Services Program, which is responsible for launch service acquisition, integration, analysis and launch management for each mission.

NASA says a red pressure alarm for the gaseous helium system went off, prompting the launch controller to order, "Hold, hold, hold". The next launch window opens at 3:31 (9.31am in SA) on Sunday.

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The probe will fly into a region where temperatures exceed a million degrees Fahrenheit (555,000 degrees Celsius) but the sun is expected to heat the shield to a relatively modest 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,370 degrees Celsius).

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.

It is created to withstand heat of up to 1,000 degrees Celsius, speeds of 700,000 kilometres per hour and a journey that will last seven years.

"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. "We know the questions we want to answer.".

But then, the launch of NASA's Mariner 2 spacecraft in 1962 - becoming the first robotic spacecraft to make a successful planetary encounter - proved them wrong.

The probe is protected by a 4in-thick shield that constantly repositions itself between the sun's power and the scientific instruments on board.

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