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NASA Mission To The Sun Faces Additional Delays

Parker Solar Probe artist rendering. Photo: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

NASA needs more time before launching a spacecraft to the sun from the Space Coast. The launch is now targeted for August 11.

The Parker Solar Probe will swoop to within 4 million miles of the surface of the sun facing temperatures of nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

That is, once it leaves the ground.

The spacecraft developed a leak earlier this month and during final processing, technicians discovered a small strip of foam inside its protective nosecone requiring an additional inspection.

The new launch date leaves just a little over a week for additional delays. Because the spacecraft is relying on orbits around Venus to get it to the Sun at the right speed, there’s a short window during which it can launch. If it misses this window, it will have to wait until next May.

Scientists hope the spacecraft will uncover details to better predict space weather, which has an impact on our power grids and satellites.

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket will launch the spacecraft. It will make it's first approach of the sun in just a few months. If the spacecraft launches during this year's window, it will make it's closest approach to the Sun December 2024.

When the probe does arrive at the Sun, it will be traveling at 430,000 thousand miles per hour -- fast enough to get from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. in just one second.

Brendan Byrne is WMFE's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the WMFE newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing WMFE's internship program.

Byrne also hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration.
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