That’s why launch pads have lightning towers.
Lightning crackled today (Aug. 27) over Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which will host the highly anticipated liftoff of the agency’s spacecraft. Artemis 1 lunar mission on Monday morning (Aug. 29).
The beams approached the stack of Artemis 1, a space launch system (SLS) topped by an Orion crew capsule, with three even hitting Pad 39B’s lightning towers.
Related: NASA’s Artemis 1 Lunar Mission: Live Updates
Plus: NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar mission explained in photos
Lightning strikes next to Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center moments ago as NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Artemis I await launch Monday during a two-hour opening window at 8:33 a.m. EDT. pic.twitter.com/UsfBX1Q2u8August 27, 2022
There is no cause for alarm; the towers were doing their job, deflecting dangerous attacks away from valuable spaceflight hardware. One of the three towers of 39B was similarly hit in early april during an Artemis 1 refueling test, for example, and the SLS and Orion emerged unscathed.
in a blog post update (opens in a new tab) tonight, NASA officials said today’s three attacks were likely “low magnitude.” Still, the agency is investigating whether they may have affected the Artemis 1 stack or Pad 39B.
“A meteorological team has begun an evaluation that includes the collection of voltage and current data, as well as imagery,” NASA officials wrote in the update. “The data will be shared with a team of experts in electromagnetic environmental efforts who will determine if any constraints in vehicle or ground systems have been violated. Engineers will take a walk-through of the platform tonight and, if necessary, conduct additional evaluations with experts in subsystems.”
Artemis 1 is NASA’s first mission sagebrush lunar exploration program, as well as the debut flight of the SLS. The powerful rocket will launch Orion on an unmanned mission to lunar orbit that will last six weeks from liftoff to splashdown. The main objective is to show that both vehicles are ready to start launching astronauts to Moon and other deep space destinations.
The weather is not good on the Space Coast today, as the lightning shows. But it is expected to clear up considerably on launch day; meteorologists with the US space force let’s say there’s a 70% chance mother nature will cooperate on monday morning.
However, if weather or technical issues prevent that liftoff attempt, NASA has two backup opportunities in the current launch window to target: Sept. 1. 2 and Sept. 5.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:45 pm EDT on August 1. 27 to include information from the NASA blog post update.
Mike Wall is the author of “out there (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; Illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @migueldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacepointcom (opens in a new tab) or in Facebook (opens in a new tab).
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