NASA delays Parker Solar Probe launch from Cape Canaveral

Spacecraft first to study sun's atmosphere, solar wind

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist
Scott Olson/Getty Images

University of Chicago astrophysicist Dr. Eugene Parker is presented with a model of the Parker Solar Probe.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA officials announced Tuesday that they are delaying the launch of a spacecraft designed to study the sun until at least Aug. 11, for additional inspections.

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy was originally scheduled to launch the Parker Solar Probe on Aug. 4, before what NASA described as "a minor tubing leak" was discovered at the processing facility in Titusville. The launch slipped to Aug. 6 and now NASA and its mission partners are targeting Aug. 11 for  a 45-minute launch window at 3:48 a.m. from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The latest delay comes after "a small strip of foam was found inside the (spacecraft) fairing," during final inspections after the spacecraft was encapsulated in the Delta IV Heavy nose cone, according to NASA.

The spacecraft was named in honor of University of Chicago astrophysicist Eugene Parker. It's the first time NASA has named a spacecraft after a living person.

The Parker Solar Probe, which is protected by 4½-inch-thick carbon-composite solar shields, will be the first NASA mission to the sun's outermost atmosphere, known as the corona. The spacecraft will study the corona and solar wind, using a group of science instruments, about the size of a car, on the probe.

The observations and data from the mission could change what we know about the mysterious corona, increase understanding of solar wind and help improve forecasting of major space weather events. Those events can affect satellites and astronauts as well as the Earth -- including the power grid and radiation exposure on airline flights, NASA said.

The launch window toward the sun is open until Aug.19.

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