NASA shifts launch of spacecraft to the Sun

The probe is heading up on Nasa's most powerful rocket

The forecast shows a 60 per cent chance of favourable weather conditions for the launch.

NASA hopes the probe will help determine which parts of the sun are providing the energy source for solar winds and solar particles, and how they accelerate to such high speeds.

NASA has postponed the launch of its unmanned spacecraft on a scorching journey towards the sun until tomorrow, to allow engineers more time to investigate a red flag that was raised in the last moment before liftoff.

NASA's planned mission to explore the sun was delayed Saturday as the rocket failed to take off during the designated launch window.

Once on its way, the spacecraft will fly through 24 elliptical orbits around the sun, eventually passing within just 3.8 million miles of the star's visible surface, enduring temperatures of 2,500 degrees as its instruments collect data from the closest vantage point ever attempted.

Saturday's delay was caused by a helium gas sensor that exceeded a launch limit on the Delta IV-Heavy rocket, United Launch Alliance (ULA) said.

NASA says it will try again Sunday.

The probe was scheduled to take off from Florida's Cape Canaveral at 9.28am United Kingdom time, but just one minute and 55 seconds before launch it was cancelled after a technical fault.

The probe is created to plunge into the Sun's mysterious atmosphere, known as the corona, coming within 3.83 million miles (6.16 million kilometers) of its surface during a seven-year mission.

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.

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

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.

"Parker Solar Probe uses Venus to adjust its course and slow down in order to put the spacecraft on the best trajectory", said Driesman.

The probe is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that is just 4.5 inches thick (11.43 centimeters).

But it can withstand 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,370 degrees Celsius) as well as extreme radiation, thanks to its high-tech carbon.

The project, with a $1.5 billion price tag, is the first major mission under Nasa's Living With a Star program.

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