Rocket fault delays the launch of Nasa’s solar probe

NASA is sending a spacecraft straight into the sun's glittering crown for the first time

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 probe's main goal is to unveil the secrets of the corona, the unusual atmosphere around Sun.

If the probe doesn't launch on Sunday, the window for a successful launch doesn't close until August 23.

As the Parker Solar Probe probe orbits the sun, it will experience extreme radiation and temperatures as high as 1,377C (2,510F) - close to the melting point of steel. It was then scrubbed by NASA and the teams will attempt a launch on Sunday morning.

The probe is named for Eugene Parker, 91, a University of Chicago physicist who in 1958 predicted the existence of the solar wind, a constant flow of magnetized solar particles that streams out into the farthest reaches of the solar system.

Engineers are taking utmost caution with the $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe, which Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA's science mission directorate, described as one of the agency's most "strategically important missions".

"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.

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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 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 spacecraft eventually will run out of fuel and, no longer be able to keep its heat shield pointed toward the Sun, will burn and break apart - except perhaps for the rugged heat shield.

Parker said he was "impressed" by the Parker Solar Probe, calling it "a very complex machine".

There was not enough time remaining in the window to recycle.

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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