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After technical delay, Nasa to try again launching Sun probe

Parker Solar Probe launch delayed until Sunday

The US national space agency Nasa today pulled back on launching a satellite closer to the Sun than any other has gone before, due to last-minute technical difficulties.

Unlike a campfire, which feels hottest at the source, the heat from the Sun gets more intense further away from its surface. And so, these are sort of the three fundamental questions we want to address: "the speed of the solar wind, this eruptive phenomena, solar storms, and how is the corona heated?"

As soon as this fall, the Parker Solar Probe will fly straight through the wispy edges of the sun's corona, or outer atmosphere, that was visible during last August's total solar eclipse.

The Parker Solar Probe was scheduled to blast off atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Florida's Kennedy Space Center in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The probe is set to use seven Venus flybys over almost seven years to gradually reduce its orbit around the Sun, using instruments created to image the solar wind and study electric and magnetic fields, coronal plasma and energetic particles.

On Wednesday, NASA announced it will launch the probe in summer 2018 to explore the solar atmosphere.

This July 6, 2018 photo made available by NASA shows the Parker Solar Probe in a clean room at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Fla.

A series of instruments on board the spacecraft will measure the magnetic and electric fields, plasma waves and high energy particles. "Some high-energy solar particles accelerate to almost half the speed of light, and we don't know why".

The probe will make at least 24 passes around the sun, with gravity assists from Venus for seven of them, and continue going after that as long as it has propellant.

Among them was Eugene Parker, the University of Chicago astrophysicist for whom the spacecraft is named.

The spacecraft's heat shield will serve as an umbrella, shading the science instruments during the close, critical solar junctures.

"Since this is a mission into unknown territory, we have to be prepared for some surprises, things we never thought of or things we thought of but were not correct", he said in a recent briefing.

During the approach closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history, the main objective of an unmanned probe to investigate the crown - an unusual atmosphere around the Sun.

Parker, the probe, will start shattering records this fall.