Saturday, 17 November, 2018

NASA delays launch of first ever solar probe

NASA's Parker Solar Probe Rolls Out to Launchpad for Sun Touching Mission NASA delays launch of first ever solar probe
Theresa Hayes | 12 August, 2018, 11:11

NASA's car-sized robe was scheduled to launch on a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida during a 65-minute launch window.

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 launch now is planned for Sunday, August 12, from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Over the course of its mission, the Parker Solar Probe will orbit the sun 24 times while being subjected to extreme heat and radiation, with temperatures expected to reach 1,377C, almost hot enough to melt steel.

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.

The last time a man-made object came close to the star's surface was in 1976 when Helios 2 achieved perihelion, the point of the orbit at which it was closest to the sun, at 27 million miles.

"Parker Solar Probe will carry four instrument suites created to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind". It later updated that the launch was "scrubbed" and a second attempt will be made on Sunday morning.

The probe will be controlled from the Mission Operations Centre based at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU APL), which is where NASA handles its unmanned missions.

The Delta 4 Heavy's countdown ran into problems before fueling late Saturday, prompting ULA to delay the launch from 3:33 a.m. Saturday to 3:53 a.m.

The probe is protected by a 4in-thick shield that constantly repositions itself between the sun's power and the scientific instruments on board.

"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.

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.

The project, with a $1.5 billion price tag, is the first major mission under Nasa's Living With a Star program. "Each time we fly by we get closer and closer to the Sun", Driesman added.