NASA is preparing to send a probe closer to the sun than any other spacecraft, zooming through its corona, the outermost atmosphere that gives rise to the solar wind.

The Parker Solar Probe, a robotic spacecraft the size of a small car, is slated to launch on Aug. 6 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with a planned seven-year mission. It will fly into the sun's corona within 3.8 million miles (6.1 million km) from the solar surface, seven times closer than any other spacecraft.

"To send a probe where you haven't been before is ambitious. To send it into such brutal conditions is highly ambitious," Nicola Fox, a project scientist from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, told a news conference on Friday.