NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Launch Delayed Due To Last-Minute Glitch


Washington: NASA called off the launch of its ambitious Parker Solar Probe mission to the sun just minutes before an early-morning liftoff Saturday (Aug. 11) due to a glitch with the spacecraft’s giant Delta IV Heavy rocket.

The space agency scrubbed the launch due to a last-minute anomaly in the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket sheduled to launch the Parker Solar Probe at 4:28 a.m. EDT (0828 GMT), NASA officials said. The mission is now scheduled for no earlier than Sunday, Aug. 12, at 3:31 a.m. EDT (0731 GMT) during a window that will remain open for 65 minutes. There is a 60-percent chance of good weather for a Sunday launch, according to ULA.

The launch now is planned for Sunday, August 12, from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The forecast shows a 60 per cent chance of favourable weather conditions for the launch.

The launch time is 3:31 am EDT. The 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 postponed the launch of its first ever spacecraft to fly directly towards the Sun on a mission to plunge into our star’s sizzling atmosphere and unlock its mysteries. The reason for the delay was not immediately clear, but was called for after a gaseous helium alarm was sounded in the last moments before the lift off, according to the officials.

The next launch window opens at 3:31 am on Sunday, when weather conditions are 60 per cent favourable for launch, according to Nasa.

Parker Solar Probe will make its journey all the way to the Sun’s atmosphere, or corona – closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history.

During its nominal mission lifetime of just under 7 years, Parker Solar Probe will complete 24 orbits of the Sun – reaching within 3.8 million miles (roughly 61,15,508 km) of the Sun’s surface at closest approach.

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 Parker probe’s final three orbits – in 2024 and 2025 – will be the closest. 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. The probe is about the size of a small car and weighs a mere 635 kg.