NASA launches world's first mission to 'touch' the Sun
(EDS: Updates with more details)
Washington, Aug 12 (PTI) NASA's Parker Solar Probe, mankind's first mission to 'touch' the Sun, was successfully launched today on an unprecedented, seven-year long journey to unlock the mysteries of the star's fiery outer atmosphere and its effects on space weather.
Liftoff of the USD 1.5 billion mission took place from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the US at 3:31 am EDT (1:01 pm Indian Standard Time).
"3-2-1... and we have liftoff of Parker #SolarProbe atop @ULAlaunch's #DeltaIV Heavy rocket," the US-based space agency tweeted.
The launch of the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the spacecraft was scrubbed yesterday due to a violation of a launch limit, resulting in a hold.
The solar wind is a stream of charged particles and magnetic fields that flow continuously from the Sun.
The car-sized probe will travel directly into the Sun's atmosphere, about 3.8 million miles from its surface - and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before, thanks to its innovative Thermal Protection System.
The probe will perform the closest-ever observations of a star when it travels through the Sun's outer atmosphere, called the corona. It will make 24 passes through the corona.
In order to unlock the mysteries of the Sun's atmosphere, the probe will use Venus' gravity during seven flybys over nearly seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the Sun.
The findings will also make critical contributions to our ability to forecast changes in Earth's space environment that affect life and technology on Earth.
To perform these unprecedented investigations, the spacecraft and instruments will be protected from the Sun's heat by a 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield, which will need to withstand temperatures outside the spacecraft.
Scientists have sought these answers for more than 60 years, but the investigation requires sending a probe right through the heat of the corona.
Today, this is finally possible with cutting-edge thermal engineering advances that can protect the mission on its dangerous journey, the space agency said.
A Sun-skimming mission like Parker Solar Probe has been a dream of scientists for decades, but only recently has the required technology - like the heat shield, solar array cooling system, and fault management system - been available to make such a mission a reality, it added.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)