With less than
2 minutes to go in the launch countdown early Saturday, officials shut down the Parker Space Probe, forcing NASA to try again for 3:31 a.m. this morning.
CAPE CANAVERAL — With 1 minute, 55 seconds to go in the launch countdown early Saturday, launch officials shut down the Parker Space Probe and announced a scrub, forcing the launch to target its backup time of 3:31 a.m. this morning.
It gave a second chance for night owls and very early risers to watch an historic launch, as United Launch Alliance was set to send the Parker Space Probe mission into space from the coast on the largest rocket sending payloads today.
It would be just the 10th launch of the Delta IV Heavy, which will provide 2.1 million pounds of thrust during launch. The craft's first launch took place in 2004.
NASA's Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to embark on a path that will eventually take it closer to the sun than any other man-made object has ever gone.
The trip has a high level of risk because, once the spacecraft is on its way, it will be mostly autonomous, said Scott Messer, a program manager at United Launch Alliance.
“Everything has to work the first time,” he said.
If it does, the probe will come within 3.8 million miles of the sun by December 2024. The closest any other spacecraft has come was the Helios B probe, which came within 27 million miles on April 17, 1976.
The launch comes just shy of the one-year anniversary of a solar eclipse that cut across the U.S. in August of 2017.
That event helped spark more interest in the sun, said Nicky Fox, the Parker Solar Probe's project scientist.
“It made everybody look to the skies and realize the sun is not just a single point of light,” said Fox, who is based at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory. “It really did bring up an awareness.”
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to embark on a path that will take it closer to the sun than any other man-made object has ever gone.