techkenyot.com
techkenyot.com September 21, 2018


NASA, ULA to try again tonight to launch Parker Solar Probe

12 August 2018, 11:10 | Edward Lowe

Image An illustration of the probe leaving Earth. Pic NASA

Illustrations of the Solar Probe Plus spacecraft leaving Earth. Pic JHU  APL

NASA has postponed until Sunday the launch of its unmanned Parker Solar Probe, to allow engineers more time to investigate a red flag that was raised in the last moment before liftoff.

NASA's $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe mission will attempt to fly closer to the sun and faster than any other spacecraft in history.

The heat shield is built to withstand radiation equivalent to up to about 500 times the Sun's radiation on Earth.

The car-sized probe is created to give scientists a better understanding of solar wind and geomagnetic storms that risk wreaking chaos on Earth by knocking out the power grid.

The launch was pushed back because a technical glitch on the rocket carrying the probe, United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy rocket, caused NASA to run out the clock on its 65-minute launch window Saturday.

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According to NASA, the forecast shows a 60 percent chance of favourable weather conditions for launch.

The probe is set to use seven Venus flybys over almost seven years to gradually 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.

The probe, the size of a small auto, is due to make a seven-year mission to skim through the sun's atmosphere, enduring temperatures of 1,300C.

Parker's lightweight heat shield is just 4 ½ inches (11 centimeters) thick. The outreaching corona is hundreds of times hotter than the sun's actual surface, confounding scientists.

"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.

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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.

"We are ready. We have the flawless payload".

"The primary science goals for the mission are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles", explained NASA. Vindication came with NASA's Mariner 2 spacecraft in 1962.

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

When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel rapidly enough to go from NY to Tokyo in one minute - some 430,000 miles per hour, making it the fastest human-made object.

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