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NASA's Parker Solar Probe Rolls Out to Launchpad for Sun-Touching Mission

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The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying NASA’s Parker Solar Probe rolls out at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Aug. 10, 2018, ahead of a planned Aug. 11 launch.

Credit: Mike Wall/Space.com

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA's historic mission to touch the sun is nearly ready to lift off.

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket topped with NASA's Parker Solar Probe rolled out to its launch pad here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station this evening (Aug. 10). (Actually, the mobile servicing tower surrounding the rocket rolled back, exposing the Delta IV Heavy and its payload. But the effect is basically the same.)

If all goes according to plan, the booster will lift off at 3:33 a.m. EDT (0733 GMT) tomorrow (Aug. 11), kicking off a $1.5 billion mission that will fly through the sun's outer atmosphere repeatedly, gathering key insights about solar structure and activity. You can watch the launch live here on Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV. The webcast begins at 3 a.m. EDT (0700 GMT). [The Greatest Missions to the Sun Ever]

A view of the Delta IV Heavy from the other side, showing the Parker Solar Probe logo.

A view of the Delta IV Heavy from the other side, showing the Parker Solar Probe logo.

Credit: Mike Wall/Space.com

The heavily shielded Parker Solar Probe will make 24 such close flybys over the next seven years, getting within just 3.83 million miles (6.16 million kilometers) of the sun's surface at closest approach. The sun's gravity will accelerate the spacecraft to record-breaking speeds during such encounters; at its fastest, the Parker Solar Probe will go about 430,000 mph (690,000 km/h), NASA officials said.

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook or Google+. Originally published on Space.com.

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