NASA launches Parker Solar Probe, begins journey to 'touch the sun'

In this photo provided by NASA, The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA's Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)

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In this photo provided by NASA, The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA's Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)

We have liftoff.

NASA tweeted just after 3:30 a.m. EDT Sunday that it launched the United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket, which was carrying the Parker Solar Probe, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The spacecraft's mission: to "touch" the sun.

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According to CNN, the probe is expected to "orbit within 3.9 million miles of the sun's surface" by 2024. This fall, it will reach within 15.5 million miles of the sun, beating Helios 2's 1976 record, The Associated Press reported.

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For reference, the Earth is about 93 million miles from the sun.

The successful launch came one day after a "violation of a launch limit" – in this case, an issue with helium pressure – prevented the rocket's takeoff early Saturday, the AP reported.

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NASA's Launch Services Program tweeted about 4:17 a.m. EDT Sunday that it had received data confirming "spacecraft separation." The probe's solar panels also have been deployed, officials said.

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– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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