NASA postpones launch of Parker Solar Probe

Parker Solar Probe launch delayed until Sunday

Parker Solar Probe launch delayed until Sunday

NASA has postponed the launch of its unmanned spacecraft on a scorching journey towards the sun until tomorrow, to allow engineers more time to investigate a red flag that was raised in the last moment before liftoff. 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.

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.

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 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 probe won't actually land on the sun, but it will make history - getting closer than any other man-made object.

When it runs out of fuel, it will stay in the sun's orbit in perpetuity.

USA space agency NASA has scrubbed its launch of a new probe, but will make another attempt on Sunday.

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"The Parker Solar Probe will help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth", said Justin Kasper, a project scientist and professor at the University of MI.

The probe is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that is 4.5 inches (11.43 centimeters) thick.

But as the rocket waited on the launchpad, the countdown was frozen twice and the launch delayed for over 45 minutes.

"The sun is full of mysteries", said Nicky Fox, project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab. It will fly by our solar system's hottest planet seven times over seven years, using the gravity of Venus to shrink its own oval orbit and draw increasingly closer to the sun.

"It was just a matter of sitting out the deniers for four years until the Venus Mariner 2 spacecraft showed that, by golly, there was a solar wind", Parker said earlier this week. The current close-to-the-sun champ, NASA's former Helios 2, got within 27 million miles (43 million kilometers) in 1976.

At Parker Solar Probe's closest approach to the Sun, temperatures on the heat shield will reach almost 1,371 degrees Celsius, but the spacecraft and its instruments will be kept at a relatively comfortable temperature of about 29.4 degrees Celsius.

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