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Last-minute technical problem delays NASA’s flight to sun

August 11, 2018
Parker Solar Probe Prelaunch
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This photo provided by NASA shows the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard shortly after the Mobile Service Tower was rolled back, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, at Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Fla. NASA is sending the spacecraft straight into the sun's glittering crown, an atmospheric region so hot and harsh any normal visitor would wither. Set to launch early Saturday, the Parker Solar Probe is as heat-resistant as a spacecraft gets, essential for exploring our star closer than ever before. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A last-minute technical problem Saturday delayed NASA’s unprecedented flight to the sun.

The early morning launch countdown was halted with just one-minute, 55 seconds remaining, keeping the Delta IV rocket on its pad with the Parker Solar Probe.

Rocket maker United Launch Alliance said it would try again Sunday, provided the helium-pressure issue can be resolved quickly. As soon as the red pressure alarm for the gaseous helium system went off, a launch controller ordered, “Hold, hold, hold.”

Once on its way, the Parker probe will venture closer to our star than any other spacecraft. The $1.5 billion mission is already a week late because of rocket issues. Saturday’s launch attempt encountered a series of snags; in the end, controllers ran out of time.

Thousands of spectators gathered in the middle of the night to witness the launch, including the University of Chicago astrophysicist for whom the spacecraft is named. Eugene Parker predicted the existence of solar wind 60 years ago. He’s now 91 and eager to see the solar probe soar. He plans to stick around at least another few days.

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This story has been corrected to show that it’s a $1.5 billion mission.

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