Last-Minute Glitch Delays Launch of NASA's Parker Solar Probe

The spacecraft will use seven Venus flybys over nearly seven years to gradually shrink its orbit around the sun. Pic John Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab

The probe is created to plunge into the Sun's mysterious atmosphere, known as the corona, coming within 3.83 million miles (6.16 million kilometers) of its surface during a seven-year mission.

Scientists hope the mission will be able to provide answers as to why the corona is 300 times hotter than the surface of the sun, a phenomenon that Nasa says is in "defiance of all logic" because "its atmosphere gets much, much hotter the farther it stretches from the sun's blazing surface".

The probe aims to dip directly into our star's outer atmosphere, or corona.

Saturday's launch countdown was halted with just one-minute, 55 seconds remaining, keeping the Delta IV (four) rocket at Cape Canaveral, Florida, with the Parker Solar Probe.

"The team received a gaseous helium red pressure alarm that kicked them out", Mic Woltman of NASA's Launch Services Program said during live NASA TV commentary following the launch scrub.

The launch attempt was canceled after multiple delays.

The launch time is 3:31 am EDT. Saturday's launch window for the Parker Solar Probe opened at 3:33 a.m.

The rocket with the Parker Solar Probe moments before a problem caused the launch to be delayed.

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At about 4:20 a.m., the team cleared the mission for launch, prompting cheers from spectators lining the NASA Causeway.

The probe was scheduled to take off from Florida's Cape Canaveral at 9.28am United Kingdom time, but just one minute and 55 seconds before launch it was cancelled after a technical fault.

"We will fly by Venus seven times throughout the mission".

The probe is named after Eugene Parker, a solar physicist who in 1958 first predicted the existence of the solar wind, the stream of charged particles and magnetic fields that flow continuously from the Sun.

The probe is equipped with a 4 1/2-inch thick carbon-carbon heat shield created to withstand temperatures of about 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Scientists have wanted to build a spacecraft like this for more than 60 years, but only in recent years did the heat shield technology advance enough to be capable of protecting sensitive instruments, according to Fox.

The probe, the size of a small auto, is due to make a seven-year mission to skim through the sun's atmosphere, enduring temperatures of 1,300C.

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. The names were uploaded to a memory drive that is being carried by the probe.

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