Florida: The Parker Solar Probe was set to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Saturday, but last-minute investigations have delayed it for 24 hours.
With just one minute, 55 seconds remaining for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to lift off, the launch controller shouted, “Hold, hold, hold.” Reason: The red pressure alarm for the gaseous helium system had gone off.
It is now scheduled to blast off – on board the mammoth Delta-IV Heavy rocket – on Sunday morning. Rocket maker United Launch Alliance said it would try again provided the helium-pressure issue can be resolved quickly.
The rocket was on the launch pad when the countdown clock was interrupted, as officials investigated an alarm. Nasa had a weather window of 65 minutes to launch, but the time elapsed before the issue could be resolved.
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.”
NASA wrote on its Twitter page that the launch was postponed from 3:33 am ET to 4:38 am ET. It later updated that the launch was “scrubbed” and a second attempt will be made on Sunday morning.
This morning’s launch of a @ulalaunch #DeltaIV Heavy rocket carrying the #ParkerSolarProbe spacecraft was scrubbed. The launch is planned for Sunday, Aug. 12. Details: https://t.co/0BhSpVA9oZ pic.twitter.com/QQWZv2gKo0
— NASA (@NASA) August 11, 2018
Thousands of spectators gathered in the middle of the night to witness the launch, including the University of Chicago astrophysicist for whom the spacecraft is named.
The probe is set to become the fastest-moving manmade object in history.
The probe aims to dip directly into our star’s outer atmosphere, or corona. Its data promises to crack longstanding mysteries about the Sun’s behaviour – assuming it can survive roasting temperatures above 1,000C.The Parker Solar Probe was set to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Saturday, but last-minute investigations have delayed it for 24 hours.
“I realise that might not sound that close, but imagine the Sun and the Earth were a metre apart. Parker Solar Probe would be just 4cm away from the Sun,” explained Dr Nicky Fox, the British-born project scientist who is affiliated to the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.
“We’ll also be the fastest human-made object ever, travelling around the Sun at speeds of up to 690,000km/h (430,000mph) – New York to Tokyo in under a minute!” she said to the media.
Eugene Parker predicted the existence of solar wind 60 years ago. He’s now 91 and eager to see the solar probe soar.