NASA's $2 billion flight to sun delayed by last-minute technical problem

Cesar Mills
August 12, 2018

On board the Delta IV Heavy rocket is the Parker Solar Probe on its first mission to the sun.

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 next launch window opens at 3:31 am (0731 GMT) on Sunday, when weather conditions are 60 per cent favorable for launch, NASA said.

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.

It is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that can endure unprecedented levels of heat, and radiation 500 times that experienced on Earth.

The mission is named after famed solar scientist Eugene Parker, and is NASA's first to be named after a living person.

NASA hopes the probe will help determine which parts of the sun are providing the energy source for solar winds and solar particles, and how they accelerate to such high speeds. 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.

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The probe is created to plunge into the Sun's mysterious atmosphere, known as the corona, coming within 6.16 million kilometres of its surface during a seven-year mission.

To handle the heat it has been covered with a special 4.5 inch (11.3 cm) thick carbon-composite shield capable of withstanding temperatures up to 1,650C (3,002F).

Scorching, yes? But if all works as planned, the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 degrees Fahrenheit. "Some high-energy solar particles accelerate to almost half the speed of light, and we don't know why". The launch window for the mission now closes on August 23.

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

"The Parker Solar Probe's observations will help us answer questions like: Why is the corona a couple million degrees hotter than the sun?"

When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel rapidly enough to go from NY to Tokyo in one minute - some 430,000 miles per hour, making it the fastest human-made object.

Other reports by GizPress

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