UPDATE: NASA postpones launch of Parker Solar Probe
12 August, 2018, 23:45
"Teams worked very hard this evening, diligently getting through the launch process, looking at everything that they had to to get into the terminal count this evening", Mic Woltman, of NASA's Launch Services Program, said during NASA's broadcast of the launch attempt.
NASA has delayed the launch of a probe which will make a series of unprecedented orbits of the sun.
But if all goes according to plan, the probe will launch at 3:31 a.m. ET Sunday from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket, one of the world's most powerful rockets.
The Parker probe will have tools to measure the sun's expanding corona and its flowing atmosphere known as the solar wind, which was first discovered by solar physicist Eugene Parker in 1958. It later updated that the launch was "scrubbed" and a second attempt will be made on Sunday morning.
Thousands of spectators gathered in the middle of the night to witness the launch, including the University of Chicago astrophysicist for whom the spacecraft is named.
The car-sized probe is created to give scientists a better understanding of solar wind and geomagnetic storms that risk wreaking chaos on Earth by knocking out the power grid.
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. The US$1.5 billion mission is already a week late because of rocket issues. When it runs out of fuel, it will stay in the sun's orbit in perpetuity.
The car-sized Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to blast off on a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral.
"We will also be listening for plasma waves that we know flow around when particles move", Fox added.
"Parker Solar Probe uses Venus to adjust its course and slow down in order to put the spacecraft on the best trajectory", said Driesman.
It will get more than seven times closer than the current record holder for a close solar pass, a record set by the Helios 2 spacecraft in 1976.
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).
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