NASA delays launch of Parker Solar Probe 24 hours


The space agency scrubbed the launch due to a last-minute anomaly in the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket sheduled to launch the Parker Solar Probe at 4:28 a.m. EDT (0828 GMT), NASA officials said. The spacecraft is created to fly through the sun's super-hot outer atmosphere, called the corona, to study the solar wind and sun storms.

After it launches, the probe will travel at 430,000mph, the fastest speed ever achieved by a spacecraft.

Among them was Eugene Parker, the University of Chicago astrophysicist for whom the spacecraft is named.

"Launch teams are working on technical issues and weather is predicted to be 70 per cent chance of favourable conditions", NASA said in a tweet late on Thursday.

The probe is set to use seven Venus flybys over almost seven years to gradually reduce its orbit around the Sun, using instruments created to image the solar wind and study electric and magnetic fields, coronal plasma and energetic particles.

NASA will try again early Sunday to launch the Delta IV rocket, which is carrying the Parker Solar Probe.

Weighing just 635 kgs, it is a relatively light spacecraft, said Andy Driesman, project manager for the mission at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in the US.

Image: The probe's orbits will gradually take it nearer to the sun.

"Parker Solar Probe will carry four instrument suites created to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind".

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A $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe mission will fly through the sun's outer atmosphere within 6.4 million km of the enormous hot star repeatedly, gathering key insights about solar structure, activity, atmosphere, solar winds and other features.

"We will also be listening for plasma waves that we know flow around when particles move", Fox added.

Parker described the Parker Solar Probe as a "a very complex machine", and said he was "impressed".

"We will fly by Venus seven times throughout the mission".

In an orbit this close to the Sun, the real challenge is to keep the spacecraft from burning up.

There was not enough time remaining in the window to recycle.

The heat shield is made of a 4.5-inch thick carbon composite foam material between two carbon fibre face sheets.

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.