Spaceflight Insider

Technical issues plague 1st launch attempt of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’s mission to touch the Sun, the Parker Solar Probe, will have to wait at least one more day as various technical issues with the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket ultimately led to a scrub of the Aug. 11, 2018, attempt.

While the 65-minute launch window opened at 3:33 a.m. EDT (07:33 GMT), the first attempt was set for 20 minutes later. The reason was for an unspecified technical issue, which ULA anomaly teams resolved.

During the launch readiness poll some five minutes before the 3:53 a.m. EDT (07:53 GMT) attempt, various “no go” calls were made due to another technical issue. Once resolved, a new launch time was set for 4:28 a.m. EDT (08:28 GMT)—just 10 minutes before the close of the window.

This time, the launch readiness poll resulted in unanimous “go” calls from the launch team. However, at one minute, 55 seconds before the planned liftoff, a hold was called—for another technical reason.

“Teams worked very hard this evening, diligently getting through the launch process, looking at everything that they had to to get into the terminal count this evening,” said Mic Woltman of NASA’s Launch Services Program during NASA’s broadcast of the launch attempt. “As we picked up the count at T minus four and got into a terminal count, the team received a gaseous helium red pressure alarm that kicked them out.”

Woltman said there was not enough time to troubleshoot before the close of the window. The team is evaluating the issue and pending a resolution and no issues with the de-tanking process with the Delta IV Heavy, ULA is expected to try again to send Parker Solar Probe into space at 3:31 a.m. EDT (07:31 GMT) Aug. 12, 2018. There is a 60 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for liftoff.

Parker Solar Probe, when it launches, is set to be the first mission to the Sun’s corona. Using the 233-foot (71-meter) tall Delta IV Heavy with an added third stage, the spacecraft will be sent on a trajectory taking it past Venus in just six weeks before making its first close approach to Earth’s parent star before the end of 2018.

After nearly seven years and seven Venus flybys, Parker Solar Probe’s close approach to the Sun will gradually lower to within four million miles (6.4 million kilometers) above the Sun while traveling at speeds of up to 430,000 mph (700,000 kph).

Video courtesy of NASA Kennedy



Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.

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