NASA postpones for 24 hours launch of historic spaceship to Sun

Gwen Vasquez
August 12, 2018

The probe will fly through the sun's corona to gather data on the sun's great mysteries, such as the solar winds that create aurorae on Earth and disrupt satellites and power grids.

The launch has now been postponed by a day.

Saturday's scrub was caused by a helium gas sensor that surpassed a launch limit on the Delta IV-Heavy rocket, United Launch Alliance said.

It said "there was not enough time remaining in the window to recycle".

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 webcast will begin at 3 a.m. EDT (0700 GMT).

NASA initially aimed to launch the Parker Solar Probe on July 31, but the agency and ULA repeatedly pushed the liftoff back to allow time to resolve issues with the mission's Delta IV Heavy booster.

The reason for the delay was not immediately clear, but was called for after a gaseous helium alarm was sounded in the last moments before the lift off, according to the officials.

NASA's $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe spacecraft, the size of a vehicle, aims to plunge into the Sun's sizzling atmosphere and become humanity's first mission to explore a star.

More news: Pence: Space Force Will Be Independent Service by 2020, Include Elite Operators

Eight long years of hard work by countless engineers and scientists is finally paying off.

Even in a region where temperatures can reach more than a million degrees Fahrenheit, the sunlight is expected to heat the shield to just around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius).

The coolest, hottest mission, baby, that's what it is.

"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.

The Parker probe's final three orbits - in 2024 and 2025 - will be the closest.

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

The probe is about the size of a small vehicle and weighs a mere 635 kg.

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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