FL –NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is pushing closer to
launch in early August after the mighty Delta IV Heavy rocket
that will boost it to space on its mission to ‘touch the sun’ underwent two sets of key Wet
Dress Rehearsal (WDR) exercises this past week at
its Cape Canaveral launch site.
of the WDR objectives were successfully completed! And ULA is currently on
target to support a sure to be spectacular overnight blastoff on August 4.
mission to fly through the sun’s outer atmosphere — the solar corona – skimming within 4 million miles, 8.86 solar radii (6.2
million kilometers) of the suns fiercely hot surface.
Plus – Space UpClose got an ‘up close’
look at the exposed two stage Delta IV Heavy booster standing vertical on Space
Launch Complex-37 (SLC-37) today, Saturday, July 7, during a public bus tour.
Check out our photo gallery
herein as well as additional images captured around the Space Coast area.
2018 atop the triple barrel United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket, the
most powerful vehicle in the firms fleet, from
Space Launch Complex-37 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Liftoff is slated for a daily
window that opens around 4 a.m. EDT on Aug. 4 and lasts around an hour.
The ULA Delta IV Heavy reigned as
the world’s most powerful rocket since the retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttles
until the Feb. 2018 launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy.
This past week, engineers and technicians
with rocket maker United Launch Alliance (ULA) carried out a pair of critical wet
dress rehearsal activities on Monday, July 2 and Friday, July 6 to ensure that the rocket will be ready for the blastoff
currently targeted for August 4.
the clock and must have the Delta rocket and Parker payload ready because the
launch window lasts only for a short 20 day period from July 31 to August 19.
They are working against a hard deadline and have already eaten up part of the
margin by postponing the liftoff several days to Aug. 4 to deal with rocket and payload matters.
get Parker off the pad in time – otherwise the launch will have to postponed to
the next window at a cost of millions of dollars.
Service Tower (MST) was retracted, fully revealing the two-stage approximately 179
foot (55 meter) tall erected rocket in its current launch configuration – as I
observed from a distance in Titusville.
multiple vantage points in the Florida Space Coast region.
During the first of the two planned WDR’s last
Monday the first stage objectives were successfully completed by the launch
and pad teams.
The MST was then rolled back to protect the
rocket during the July 4 holiday.
A second WDR was successfully accomplished on
Friday, July 6 – after again rolling back the MST – to complete all objectives
including second stage tanking.
Following successful outcomes for both WDR’s ULA
is now on track to support the August 4 launch
Only the Parker Solar Probe payload
and payload fairing are missing from the Delta IV Heavy at this time. They will be added later after Parker completes
final prelaunch testing and integration at the Astrotech Space Operations Facility
in nearby Titusville.
comprised of three common booster cores (CBCs) each powered by RS-68 engines
fueled with cryogenic liquid oxygen (LOX) and liquid hydrogen (LH2).
the payload to keep it safe in case of a mishap – as occurred with SpaceX
during a WDR in September 2016 when the rocket and payload were destroyed in a catastrophic
explosion at nearby Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40).
the first two stages. This involves tanking the vehicle with the cryogenic
propellants, just as in an actual launch. The ULA team runs completely through
the simulated countdown.
right up to the point of launch, and then aborts and detanks the vehicle.
been rolled back to cover and fully enclose and protect the rocket.
were run later in the week after the MST was again rolled back to expose the
rocket on Friday, July 6. The umbilical’s
were visible. Upon completion the MST was rolled back late Saturday morning,
Delta IV Heavy was originally transported from ULA’s Horizontal Integration
Facility to pad 37 on April 17, 2018.
sized Parker payload and Star 48BV third stage will be transported to pad 37
later in July for hoisted for attachment to the upper stage.
this mission, the Delta IV Heavy’s capability will be augmented by a powerful
third stage provided by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (formerly Orbital
ATK), says ULA.
launch services amounts to $389.1 million for a deal signed with the agency in 2015.
utilized to launch the heaviest clandestine payloads for national security purposes
for the USAF and NRO.
Parker Solar Probe’s
two solar arrays – one of which is shown here on the spacecraft – were installed
on the spacecraft on May 31, 2018. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman
Probe will fly ‘Where no Earth probe has gone before!’
Parker Solar Probe will swoop through the Sun’s atmosphere 24 times, getting
closer to our star than any spacecraft has gone before.”
“Parker will be the first mission to fly through the
sun’s outer atmosphere — the solar corona — to examine two fundamental
aspects of solar physics: why the corona is so much hotter than the sun’s
surface, and what accelerates the solar wind that affects Earth and our solar
system. Understanding these fundamental phenomena has been a top-priority
science goal for more than five decades. SPP will orbit the sun 24 times,
closing to within 3.9 million miles of its surface with the help of seven Venus
flybys,” says NASA.
Illustration of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe
spacecraft approaching the sun. Blastoff is targeted for August 2018 from Cape
Canaveral, FL. Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK and more space and mission reports direct
from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and
Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human
spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com
–www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com