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Space & Astronomy

Soyuz rocket struck by lightning during launch

June 2, 2019 | Comment icon 5 comments



Lightning has the potential to take down a rocket. Image Credit: YouTube / VideoFromSpace
Footage of a recent Soyuz launch shows the harrowing moment the rocket was hit by a bolt from the blue.
The incident occurred mere seconds after the rocket, which was carrying a Glonass navigation satellite in to orbit, lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Northern Russia last Monday.

Rockets have a tendency to generate lightning when flying through thick clouds or thunderstorms, sometimes with devastating consequences.

In 1987, a bolt of lightning hit an Atlas-Centaur rocket during launch, causing its guidance systems to fail and resulting in its destruction along with the US Navy satellite it was carrying.
Even the Apollo 12 Saturn V rocket was struck by lightning during lift-off, knocking the command module's fuel cells offline and messing up the instrumentation.

Fortunately in that case the mission was able to continue, but things could have been very different.

As luck would have it, last week's Soyuz launch also managed to survive being hit and its payload has since been successfully deployed with no problems reported.



Source: Spaceflight Now | Comments (5)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by and then 3 years ago
  I saw the rocket ascending and saw the lightning strike but I guess we'll take their word that it actually hit the craft.  Seems like that kind of discharge would have damaged some instrumentation at the least.
Comment icon #2 Posted by RoofGardener 3 years ago
Not necessarily, @and then. The spacecraft could consitute a faraday cage, in which case there would be no potential difference within the spaceship itself, and hence no current flow. 
Comment icon #3 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy 3 years ago
Apollo 12 was hit by lightning shortly after lift off, yet it went on to do the second manned landing on the Moon.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 3 years ago
Yes, but only after all three of the spacecraft's fuel cells and it's 8-ball attitude indicator were knocked out. Virtually every warning light on the control panel lit up and many other systems shut down. Had it not been for a quick thinking individual in mission control called John Aaron the mission would have been aborted. He remembered a rather obscure switch in the command module and made the now legendary call, "Flight, EECOM. Try SCE to Aux." Flicking this switch reset the electonics and saved the mission.  NASA no longer launches when there is any chance of lightning. The launch commit... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by Timothy 3 years ago
@Waspie_Dwarf, thanks.  I assumed that well-developed and relatively modern rockets would be reasonably protected, lightning included. That’s a misconception on my part.  I did assume that more modern propulsion systems would negate any issue to do with environmental static discharge. Of course, launching the most important things ever out of our atmosphere is not my job. If you have time to explain a little further, it would be much appreciated!


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