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Lightning Strikes Delay Shuttle Launch

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the hey-we've-all-got-problems dept.

Space 50

Tisha_AH writes "The Space Shuttle has had its launch delayed for inspection after several lightning strikes to the launch tower and/or shuttle. Several different technologies have been applied by NASA to divert the strike energy to ground potentials with Air Terminals (lightning rods), surge protectors or the often-disputed use of static dissipator brushes. One technology that appears promising is to cause a lightning strike (to a safe location) through the use of short pulsed ultraviolet lasers. Maybe in the future, once the technology matures, we may find widespread use of UV lasers to protect space launch vehicles, antenna towers or buildings."

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electric (1, Redundant)

ellenbee (978615) | more than 5 years ago | (#28662457)

cool... lightning struck a tree once i was standing like 15 feet away from. Was awesome.

Re:electric (1)

dotgain (630123) | more than 5 years ago | (#28669479)

15 feet!? You were either way off in your measurement, extremely lucky, one-legged, or have a pretty perverse definition of 'awesome'.

None of the strikes hit the shuttle... (4, Informative)

fraik (190932) | more than 5 years ago | (#28662497)

"None of the strikes hit the shuttle or its external tank and solid rocket boosters, but there were strikes to the lightning mast and water tower."

Re:None of the strikes hit the shuttle... (3, Funny)

Cruciform (42896) | more than 5 years ago | (#28662557)

Awesome! Under the rules of homepathy that water is now imbued with lightning!
Somebody needs to get a distribution deal. With the markup we can finance that Mars mission way ahead of schedule.

Re:None of the strikes hit the shuttle... (2, Insightful)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 5 years ago | (#28662807)

And remember, the less you use the better it works!

...

Somehow.

Re:None of the strikes hit the shuttle... (3, Funny)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | more than 5 years ago | (#28662929)

So if I don't use any, does that mean that I can die from a massive overdose?

Re:None of the strikes hit the shuttle... (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 5 years ago | (#28662959)

Yes - it's very dangerous to overdose on homeopathic medicines.

You'd better buy this sugar water just to be safe. A bargain at only $100!

Re:None of the strikes hit the shuttle... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28662925)

I have the patent on lightning. Just sayin'

--God

Re:None of the strikes hit the shuttle... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28666699)

I have prior art.

Regards,
    Zeus.
   

Re:None of the strikes hit the shuttle... (1)

xOneca (1271886) | more than 5 years ago | (#28664375)

there were strikes to the [...] water tower.

Could it be better that "electrolysis" than from urine [slashdot.org] ?

Also in BBC (4, Informative)

physburn (1095481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28662591)

The BBC has the story here [bbc.co.uk]

--

Nasa can't afford to many delays in there program, if there are to get the ISS finished before the Shuttle program shutdowns down in september next year. The launch is now rescheduled to Sunday.

--

Space Craft [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

Re:Also in BBC (2, Informative)

e9th (652576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28662713)

But there is some good news. Remember Atlantis' stuck knob [slashdot.org] ? They managed to pull it out by hand [space.com] a while back.

Re:Also in BBC (1)

e9th (652576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28662731)

I probably should have worded that a bit differently.

Re:Also in BBC (1)

Kratisto (1080113) | more than 5 years ago | (#28664093)

What have they done! Pulling out Atlantis' stuck knob by hand is the reason that continent sank in the first place!

Re:Also in BBC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28665857)

NASA not Nasa
too not to
their not there
they not there
shuttle not Shuttle
shuts not shutdowns
September not september

Other than those minor grammatical points, your post is shit.

Spare U.S. The AgonY of Space Shuttle Failure (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28662613)

and just subcontract the work to theSoyuz engineers [energia.ru] .

What's next on the list of delays: slow pizza delivery,
mice, North Korean botnets, or Bruno?

Yours In Socialism,
Kilgore Trout

Bad Summary (2, Funny)

PNutts (199112) | more than 5 years ago | (#28662651)

From TFA: None of the strikes hit the shuttle or its external tank and solid rocket boosters, but there were strikes to the lightning mast and water tower.

Sheesh... You'd think it was Microsoft article.

Like This (4, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | more than 5 years ago | (#28662757)

Not pertinent to the current delays, but this story reminded me of a cool picture [nasa.gov] .

I wonder if lasers could be used to divert lightning from commercial airliners in-flight? There was some speculation [nzherald.co.nz] it could have contributed to the recent Air France crash, though apparently it's not a leading theory.

Re:Like This (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 5 years ago | (#28662789)

The picture is electrifying! Thanks.

Re:Like This (3, Informative)

cathector (972646) | more than 5 years ago | (#28664393)

the lasers work by ionizing the air between the cloud and the source of the laser, effectively creating a guide wire which the lightning then follows from the cloud to .. the source of the laser. which in the case of an airplane would pretty much have to be the airplane, so i'm not sure it's quite what you want.

Re:Like This (2, Interesting)

nethenson (1093205) | more than 5 years ago | (#28664729)

At least you would control the impact point, and would be able to divert the lightning from the most sensitive areas like the engines or the electronics. And you could force it to hit at a more prepared area of the airplane.

Re:Like This (3, Informative)

cathector (972646) | more than 5 years ago | (#28664775)

i guess that's so.
although a little googling seems to indicate that airplanes are pretty well lightning-protected these days as it is.

Re:Like This (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28666487)

Couldn't you just encase the plane in a conductive substance, such as some kind of metal?

Don't sneeze near the shuttle (-1, Troll)

gavron (1300111) | more than 5 years ago | (#28662775)

The part the public has been told:
The US Space Shuttle was supposed to be reusable but contractor lobbyists and a weak congress allowed the specs to stray so now it's a big lumbering beast with ceramic tile issues, extar booster tanks, foam for icing protection on those tanks, falling ice and foam as a danger to the hull's integrity, etc.

The part they haven't:
If you sneeze near the shuttle or in any other way change the ambient air pressure you will be arrested.

If you use a cellphone near the shuttle it will be called a lightning strike and you will collect no overtime for that pay period.
If actual lightning strikes within 20 nautical miles and someone used a cellphone, it shall be charged to their pay period. If nobody used a cellphone it will be announced as "rogue lightning."

If one of the launch directors wakes up facing the west side of the bed, the launch shall be scrubbed, and the 6th employee he sees after his 6th bite of his 6th donut shall be designated Evil Incarnate. (If he's on his 7th donut, making it 667, that employee shall instead be designated 667 - across the street neighbor from Evil Incarnate).

Our nation's infrastructure towers over the puny shuttle. Yet the shuttle is grounded by a sneezing turle or a laughing hyena.

E

but... (0, Troll)

at_slashdot (674436) | more than 5 years ago | (#28662839)

can we mount UV lasers on sharks?

power (2, Interesting)

heptapod (243146) | more than 5 years ago | (#28662867)

Maybe they'll use the short pulsed ultraviolet lasers to make sure lightning strikes the vicinity of vast capacitors to generate energy for a city.

Re:power (1)

cathector (972646) | more than 5 years ago | (#28664405)

that's an interesting idea.
seems like it should be testable with good old feet-on-carpet static electricity and some small cap's.

strike (4, Informative)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28662905)

While it has been pointed out that none of the strikes hit the shuttle itself... 7 of them hit the catenary wires or tower at the launch site and 2 of those were large enough to exceed the safety limit, inducing a 110V surge in the shuttle power system. While there's no damage indicated yet, this 24 hour stand down is to give the engineers and technicians time to check over the shuttle and all of the launch hardware.

Waste of technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28662915)

> Maybe in the future, once the technology matures, we may find widespread use
> of UV lasers to protect space launch vehicles, antenna towers or buildings."

Or they could use, y'know, lightning rods.

I wonder... (1)

robinesque (977170) | more than 5 years ago | (#28663113)

Could this be used to collect lightning?

Here's an idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28663797)

Why don't the move the whole complex the hell out of Florida? Never should have gone there to begin with.

Re:Here's an idea (2, Informative)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 5 years ago | (#28664221)

Well, there are a few reasons for Florida.

First, if you want to launch a spacecraft into an equatorial orbit, it's best to launch it from the equator. The rotation of the earth will give you about an 850 MPH boost. This is one reason that things that launch from Florida travel east. The further north you travel, the less rotational energy you get. If you consider the continental US, you're pretty much looking at either Florida or the bottom part of Texas.

Second, ideally you want very little going on to the east, in the event of a problem. If you look to the east of Florida, you'll see a pretty big chunk of water where you can drop things without worrying too much about hitting something or someone. Texas, you have the Gulf of Mexico, but if the rocket veers north, you're hitting the southern part of the US. Veer a little south and you may end up hitting Cuba, which is not necessarily something the US would like to do.

So Florida makes pretty good sense, actually.

Re:Here's an idea (1)

baegucb (18706) | more than 5 years ago | (#28665233)

So why wasn't Hawaii used? It's the furthest southern state and there's lots of water before reaching California. I know why the Johnson Space Center came about...LBJ.

Re:Here's an idea (1)

downix (84795) | more than 5 years ago | (#28665579)

At the time this was decided, Hawaii wasn't a US State.

Re:Here's an idea (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 5 years ago | (#28665823)

I'd imagine one obvious reason would be logistics--it's probably easier and quicker to transport rocket parts to Florida than it is to Hawaii.

Re:Here's an idea (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28666919)

it's probably easier and quicker to transport rocket parts to Florida than it is to Hawaii.

You mean there's something that isn't made in China?

Re:Here's an idea (1)

robinesque (977170) | more than 5 years ago | (#28668985)

Yeah, they use a train to carry the boosters to the launch site. No trains to Hawaii! We need a chunnel 2.

Video of the incident (2, Interesting)

sponga (739683) | more than 5 years ago | (#28663881)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYHY_BVj1Xo [youtube.com]

I can't imagine the water tower being too complicated in electronics,open valve to get the water to the site to cool the concrete right?

Other electronics on shuttle though must be checked.

Re:Video of the incident (2, Informative)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28664031)

There were 7 strikes that hit the water tower, launch tower and protective catenary wires. At least 2 of them exceeded safety limits; inducing unacceptable voltage spikes in electrical systems.

Better Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28663917)

Don't build launch facilities in a "weather"-prone area (it may surprise you USians but, say, Europe has much calmer weather on average [less lightning strike] because of the macroclimate here vs there).

Re:Better Idea (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28664121)

Launch sites are in the southernmost parts of the US in order to get some extra push from Earth's rotation. (The rotational velocity is the highest at the equator.) If there were sufficient access to shipping and industry, launch sites ought to be valuable in other countries along the equator...

Re:Better Idea (2, Informative)

Glock27 (446276) | more than 5 years ago | (#28665277)

Don't forget the US has an equatorial launch facility: "2500 miles southwest of Hawaii on Omelek Island, part of the Reagan Test Site (RTS) at United States Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA) in the Central Pacific." That's where SpaceX has tried some launches...

Re:Better Idea (3, Informative)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 5 years ago | (#28664245)

Which is why most European Space Agency missions are launched from French Guiana [arianespace.com] .

Re:Better Idea (1)

Velocir (851555) | more than 5 years ago | (#28665451)

Why is this modded Funny instead of Informative?

Re:Better Idea (1)

Guysmiley777 (880063) | more than 5 years ago | (#28667433)

The majority of Europe is also at a much higher latitude. The southern tip of Florida is about the same latitude as southern Algeria.

Why wait for UV lasers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28665263)

There's been successful use of rockets trailing ground wires to trigger lightning strikes for many years. Why not use that technology? It's most likely less expensive overall...

What a tremendous pain in the ass. (1)

Bootsy Collins (549938) | more than 5 years ago | (#28665633)

My group has a satellite going up on this launch. It got delayed from last month; now it's delayed again.

Atlantis shuttle news -- Knob removed, window OK (1)

4181 (551316) | more than 5 years ago | (#28665747)

The knob that was stuck between the dashboard and windshield of Atlantis (discussed here two weeks ago [slashdot.org] ) was succesfully removed [nasaspaceflight.com] using dry ice, a pressurized orbiter, and "hand pressure to manipulate it loose". The window subsequently passed inspection [nasaspaceflight.com] . Recall that window replacement could have caused a six month delay.

How green is that laser method? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28665903)

The discussion about the lasers talks of very strong lasers in order to ionise the air. How much energy will be required to power one of those lasers? How many tons of carbon dioxide will running one of those beasts cost? And for what benefit?

I'd rather see more/higher lightning rods erected that have a once off fixed cost (in terms of energy and greenhouse gas contributions.)

Re:How green is that laser method? (1)

Tisha_AH (600987) | more than 5 years ago | (#28666657)

They are not CW (continuous wave) lasers, they are pulsed with pulses in the microsecond range (just like the flash on a camera).. There is a power equation on the paper postulating that 200 pSec (picosecond) pulses at 50 MW (megawatts) are seen as optimal.

If my math is right (10 -12 is a picosecond) multiplied by pulse power 50,000,000 watts per pulse, then factoring in lasing efficiencies (for the sake of argument, lets assume that the laser is only 10% efficient). This comes out to around 1/10th of a watt per pulse.

So give the laser a pulse repetition rate of ten times a second, use a mirror to fan it across the sky, creating little ionization channels to the clouds within 5 miles of the laser (it can have a much longer range but because when it is overcast close to the ground, you lose range so we downplay the area and distances covered).

Add in more losses, air conditioning to keep the laser nice and happy, mirror power, some type of control system...

This could draw less power than your computer. The air conditioning for a small enclosure will be the biggest load.

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