A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket is in final preparations to launch NASA’s Parker Solar Probe at 3:31 a.m. Eastern time on Aug. 12 from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
The launch was initially planned on Saturday, but last-minute investigations have delayed it for 24 hours. NASA had a weather window of 65 minutes to launch, but the time elapsed before the issue could be resolved.
NASA selected ULA’s Delta IV Heavy for its unique ability to deliver the necessary energy to begin the Parker Solar Probe’s journey to the sun.
After launch, the spacecraft will be hurled into the inner Solar System, enabling the Nasa mission to zip past Venus in six weeks and make a first rendezvous with the Sun a further six weeks after that. The craft will orbit directly through the solar atmosphere – the corona – closer to the surface than any human-made object has ever gone. The corona is the place where much of the important activity that affects the Earth seems to originate.
The probe will dip inside this tenuous atmosphere, sampling conditions, and getting to just 6.16 million km (3.83 million miles) from the Sun’s broiling “surface”.
The probe is also set to become the fastest-moving manmade object in history travelling around the Sun at speeds of up to 690,000km/h (430,000mph).
“ULA is honored to launch the one-of-a-kind Parker Solar Probe,” said Tory Bruno, ULA president and CEO. “Only the Delta IV Heavy possesses the capability to deliver this unique mission to orbit, and we are proud to provide unmatched launch services to our NASA mission partners.”
The Delta IV Heavy is the nation’s proven heavy lifter, delivering high-priority missions for the U.S. Air Force, National Reconnaissance Office and NASA. With its advanced upper stage, Delta IV Heavy can take more than 14,500 pounds directly to geosynchronous orbit, as well as a wide variety of complex interplanetary trajectories.
This Delta IV Heavy is comprised of three common core boosters each powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne (AR) RS-68A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine, producing a combined total of more than 2.1 million pounds of thrust. The second stage is powered by an AR RL10B-2 liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine. Due to the extremely high energy required for this mission, the Delta IV Heavy’s capability will be augmented by a powerful third stage provided by Northrop Grumman.
This will be the 37th launch of the Delta IV rocket, and the 10th in the Heavy configuration. To date ULA has a track record of 100 percent mission success with 128 successful launches.
With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 125 satellites to orbit that aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, provide critical capabilities for troops in the field and enable personal device-based GPS navigation.