NASA’s Parker Solar Probe attached to Delta IV Heavy rocket
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A spacecraft that has been designed and built to “touch the Sun” has completed two critical milestones that place it one step closer to flight.
On Monday, July 30, 2018, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe was moved from Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida, to Cape Canaveral Air Station’s Space Launch Complex 37. The spacecraft was lifted and attached to a United launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket on Tuesday, July 31. The spacecraft is now being prepared for its launch, which is scheduled for no earlier than August 11.
The Parker Solar Probe spacecraft will travel directly into the outer part of the Sun’s atmosphere, about 4 million miles (6,437,376 kilometers) from its surface. This is well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer to the Sun than any spacecraft has gone before. The Parker Solar Probe will use a combination of in situ measurements and remote imaging to expand our understanding of the Sun’s atmosphere and the origin and evolution of the solar wind.
The launch window for the Parker Solar Probe mission opened on July 31 and continues until August 19. The launch was rescheduled from July 31 to August 4 due to the need for more software testing, and revised again, this time to August 6, after a leak was discovered in the purge ground support tubing on the third stage rocket motor.
The most recent delay was due to a small strip of foam found inside the fairing during final inspections after the encapsulation of the spacecraft. If there are no further delays, the 45-minute launch window will open at 3:48 a.m. EDT (7:48 UTC) on August 11.
Jim Sharkey is a lab assistant, writer and general science enthusiast who grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, the hometown of Skylab and Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott. As a young Star Trek fan he participated in the letter-writing campaign which resulted in the space shuttle prototype being named Enterprise. While his academic studies have ranged from psychology and archaeology to biology, he has never lost his passion for space exploration. Jim began blogging about science, science fiction and futurism in 2004. Jim resides in the San Francisco Bay area and has attended NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing and the NASA LADEE lunar orbiter launch.