NASA set to launch historic 'touch the Sun' spacecraft

NASA's Parker Solar Probe Rolls Out to Launchpad for Sun Touching Mission

Parker Solar Probe launch delayed until Sunday

"Launch teams are working on technical issues and weather is predicted to be 70 per cent chance of favourable conditions", NASA said in a tweet late on Thursday.

The powerful Delta 4 Heavy and a solid-propellant upper stage will provide the energy needed to counteract Earth's 18-mile-per-second orbital velocity, allowing the Parker Solar Probe to fall into the inner solar system.

The new, 60-minute launch window opens at 3:31am (0731 GMT) for the Parker Solar Probe, a $1.5 billion unmanned spacecraft that aims to get closer than any human-made object in history to the center of our solar system.

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

In the lead-up to the launch, NASA collected 1.1 million names from members of the public who wanted to symbolically orbit the sun at close range.

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This followed earlier trouble in the countdown.

If it launches successfully at the same time on Sunday, the probe will reach speeds of up to 430,000 miles per hour (700,000 km/h).

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.

The Parker Solar Probe was set to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Saturday, but last-minute investigations have delayed it for 24 hours.

Parker's lightweight heat shield is just 4 ½ inches (11 centimeters) thick.

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

"Parker Solar Probe will carry four instrument suites created to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind".

"We'll be going where no spacecraft has dared go before - within the corona of a star", said project scientist Nicky Fox from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

"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. It's the first time NASA mission has been named after a living person. "Each time we fly by we get closer and closer to the Sun", Driesman added.

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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