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Rocket fault delays the launch of Nasa’s solar probe

Rocket fault delays the launch of Nasa’s solar probe

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.

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 agency is now targeting Sunday for the launch of the spacecraft which is created to go all the way to the Sun's atmosphere, or corona - closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history.

Even in a region where temperatures can reach more than a million degrees Fahrenheit, the sunlight is expected to heat the shield to just around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius).

With just one minute, 55 seconds remaining for NASA's Parker Solar Probe to lift off, the launch controller shouted, "Hold, hold, hold".

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.

"The team received a gaseous helium reg pressure alarm that kicked them out", said Mic Woltman with NASA's Launch Services Program. It was then scrubbed by NASA and the teams will attempt a launch on Sunday morning.

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The probe is set to use seven Venus flybys over almost seven years to steadily reduce its orbit around the Sun, using instruments created to image the solar wind and study electric and magnetic fields, coronal plasma and energetic particles.

"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.

NASA has delayed the launch of a probe which will make a series of unprecedented orbits of the sun.

But getting so close to the Sun requires slowing down - for which Parker will use the gravity of our neighbor planet, Venus.

The craft is named after astronomer Eugene Parker, 91, who was the first to propose that the sun was constantly ejecting a wind of charged particles, streaming past us faster than the speed of sound. The current close-to-the-sun champ, NASA's former Helios 2, got within 27 million miles (43 million kilometers) in 1976.

It is created to withstand heat of up to 1,000 degrees Celsius, speeds of 700,000 kilometres per hour and a journey that will last seven years.


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