No lift-off for Nasa’s solar probe

NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribbe

US space agency NASA has delayed a mission to send fastest object ever made to the Sun by 24 hours, due to a last-minute technical problem.

The Delta IV rocket carrying the Parker Solar Probe was to be launched on Saturday from Cape Canaveral, Florida, but the launch countdown was halted with barely two minutes remaining. It is now to be launched on Sunday, at 3:31am EDT.

Nasa describe the technical problem as a “violation of a launch limit, resulting in a hold. There was not enough time remaining in the window to recycle.”

At the launch, a pressure alarm sounded, showing a fault with the Delta IV rocket’s helium system. Although engineers tried to identify the problem, the launch window – the time frame in which a spacecraft can take off in the right direction due to the Earth’s rotation – closed before they could figure it out .

This solar probe is due to dip directly into the Sun’s scorching hot atmosphere throughout the next seven years, where temperatures reach 3 million Celsius, in a bid to unlock some of the solar system’s secrets. It is protected by a 12cm-thick shield that constantly repositions itself to shelter the probe from the sun.

Scientists hope the probe will provide information about solar winds and solar energy particles.