Aug. 11 (UPI) — The Parker Solar Probe’s first launch attempt was called off after a pair of technical glitches delayed launch proceedings. NASA’s mission to touch the sun will make a second launch attempt on Sunday.
“The launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft was scrubbed today due to a violation of a launch limit, resulting in a hold,” NASA said. “There was not enough time remaining in the window to recycle.”
The second launch window will open at 3:31 a.m. ET Sunday morning. NASA TV will provide live streaming coverage of the takeoff and initial flight through Earth’s atmosphere.
The rocket and probe will are ready and waiting on the Space Launch Complex-37 platform at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, part of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
According to meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing, Sunday’s forecast isn’t quite as favorable, with a 60 percent chance of launch-friendly weather conditions.
Last week, scientists attached the probe to the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket that will carry the spacecraft into space. On Friday, NASA removed the Mobile Service Tower, the scaffolding surrounding the rocket and payload.
After escaping Earth’s gravity, the probe will travel nearly 90 million miles. It will pass within Mercury’s orbit and skim through the outer layers of the sun’s atmosphere, within 3.8 million miles of the sun’s surface, exposing itself to temperatures as extreme as 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Both along the way and during it’s trip through the sun’s corona, the solar probe’s instrument suite will detect and measure the movement of the particles — electrons, protons and ions — that make up the corona, the sun’s atmosphere, and the solar winds generated there.
“The Parker Solar Probe’s observations will help us answer questions like: Why is the corona a couple million degrees hotter than the sun?” Eric Christian, a space scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told UPI. “Another question we hope to answer is: Why is the solar wind accelerating up to very high speeds in the corona? Some high-energy solar particles accelerate to nearly half the speed of light, and we don’t know why.”
By better understanding the basic science of solar wind — how the sun’s atmospheric particles accelerate and interact — scientists hope to more accurately model larger, more complex solar phenomena, and improve space weather prediction models.
In addition to helping scientists better understand our own little corner of the universe, the revelations inspired by Parker and its instruments will help scientists study sun-like stars elsewhere in the cosmos.
“Solar wind and space weather affect habitability, so understanding the dynamics of faraway stars can help us predict which stars are most likely to host habitable planets,” Christian said.