NASA’s Parker solar probe is ready for a Saturday start

The Parker Solar Probe as seen on July 16, 2018, to wait until the launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket.

(NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman)

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe — the space agency’s new spacecraft designed to “tap the sun” — is packaged, strapped and ready to launch during the opening of a window Saturday (Aug. 11), 3:33 pm EDT (0733 GMT) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, according to a NASA press conference today (Aug. 9).

The weather is the only continuing concern, agency staff said. There is now a 70 percent chance that the weather will cooperate for a Saturday morning start, Air Force weather officer Kathy Rice said during the press conference.

Given Florida summer weather patterns, the team is concerned about the possibilities of thunderstorms, but that risk is lower in the early hours of the morning. Rice also said the local staff will monitor the risk that the launch itself could lead to lightning. [How the Parker Solar Probe ‘Touch’ of the Sun]

Saturday launch window will remain open for approximately 65 minutes, Omar Baez, launch director at KSC, said during the press conference. If the launch is after that time, he and his colleagues are concerned that the spacecraft could be damaged while flying through the Van Allen radiation beltsthat surround the Earth.

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  • Parker Solar Probe

  • How the Parker Solar Probe ‘Touch’ of the Sun

  • Van Allen radiation belts

  • Delta IV Heavy rockets

A launch rehearsal conducted yesterday (Aug. 8) went smoothly, Baez said, and he receives a final weather briefing tomorrow (Aug. 10) around 10 pm EDT (0200 GMT on Aug. 11) to determine whether the fuel for the rocket in the hope of focusing on the Saturday morning of the launch window.

An additional window opens on Sunday (Aug. 12), 3:29 a.m. EDT (0729 GMT), Baez added, with daily windows to Aug. 23. On the day of today, the opportunity to weather the hinder a launch, 40 per cent Sunday and 20 per cent for Monday, Rice said.

The $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe will be the first NASA science mission to launch aboard a single United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rockets, and Saturday for the launch will be the 10th start using that kind of missile, according to Scott Messer, NASA’s program manager for ULA launches. “This thing goes on as if nothing is ever gone,” Messer said of the huge rocket, the second most powerful after SpaceX’s new Falcon Heavy.

In addition to the two-stage Delta IV Heavy, the Parker Solar Probe will be supported by a third stage built by Northrop Grumman that the fire is about 37 minutes after the first launch. Combined with the three phases will ensure that the spacecraft can collect the huge speed needed to successfully in orbit around the sun.

Assuming that everything goes well on Saturday, the spacecraft will be the first only closes above the sun in November.

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