Last-minute technical problem delays NASA's flight to sun

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

After a last-minute technical problem forced NASA to postpone by 24 hours the launch of its first mission to explore the Sun, the agency plans to try again Sunday.

The mission is expected to shatter a number of records: It will approach seven times closer to the sun than any other manmade object ever has, and it will be Nasa's fastest spacecraft, reaching top speeds of over 400,000 miles per hour (643737 kmh - fast enough, as Nasa's website says, to get from Washington, DC, to Philadelphia in less than one second).

NASA called off the launch of its ambitious Parker Solar Probe mission to the sun just minutes before an early-morning liftoff Saturday (Aug. 11) due to a glitch with the spacecraft's giant Delta IV Heavy rocket.

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 kilometres) of its surface during a seven-year mission.

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The tools on board will measure the expanding corona and continually flowing atmosphere known as the solar wind, which solar physicist Eugene Parker first described in 1958.

When it runs out of fuel, it will stay in the sun's orbit in perpetuity.

"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.

The heat shield is made of a 4.5-inch thick carbon composite foam material between two carbon fibre face sheets.

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

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 deg F (1,371 deg C). "Each time we fly by we get closer and closer to the Sun", Driesman added. It's the first time NASA has named a spacecraft after someone who's still alive.

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