Home / Science / The SpaceX launch “could have triggered lightning strikes” if it continued last night

The SpaceX launch “could have triggered lightning strikes” if it continued last night



NASA has said that the SpaceX launch planned last night in Florida could have triggered a dangerous lightning strike if it had gone.

Ongoing rain and thunderstorms meant that the first launch of astronauts from American Earth in nine years must be interrupted less than 17 minutes before the lift.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley sat inside the Crew Dragon capsule aboard the Falcon 9 rocket, both built by billionaire Elon Musk’s company.

As part of the “Demo-2” mission, the couple is due to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) after traveling for 19 hours and staying there for up to four months.

Both were on board the Crew Dragon capsule for hours waiting to gain momentum at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

But as the weather conditions worsened, NASA and SpaceX decided to reschedule the mission for security reasons until Saturday, May 30, at 3:22 pm EDT (20:22 BST).

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In this Wednesday, May 27, 2020 video from SpaceX available, liquid oxygen from the Falcon 9 rocket is venting as NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in the Crew Dragon capsule prepare for launch from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Moments before the mission was interrupted due to weather problems

In this Wednesday, May 27, 2020 video from SpaceX available, liquid oxygen from the Falcon 9 rocket is venting as NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in the Crew Dragon capsule prepare for launch from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Moments before the mission was interrupted due to weather problems

Unseasonable weather is seen above launch pad 39A at Cape Canaveral as the countdown clock continues on launch day at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 27

Unseasonable weather is seen above launch pad 39A at Cape Canaveral as the countdown clock continues on launch day at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 27

After 16 minutes and 54 seconds before the rocket launch, the SpaceX crew scrubbed the mission

After 16 minutes and 54 seconds before the rocket launch, the SpaceX crew scrubbed the mission

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the decision was made because it was “simply too much electricity in the atmosphere” but called the day a valuable “wet dress rehearsal”.

“It wasn’t really a thunderstorm or anything like that, but there was concern that if we started it could actually trigger lightning strikes,” he said.

“I know it’s very disappointing today. The weather got us.

“But I also wanted to say that this was really a good day for NASA, it was a great day for SpaceX.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine (pictured) said there was a concern that a launch could trigger lightning, adding that NASA and SpaceX

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine (pictured) said there was a concern that a launch could trigger lightning, adding that NASA and SpaceX “made the right decision”

Crew Dragon capsule before launch from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida

Crew Dragon capsule before launch from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida

SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft undergoing final processing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, last month

SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft undergoing final processing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, last month

“I think our teams worked together in a really impressive way and made good decisions all the time.

“We have a lot to look forward to. In just a few short days on Saturday afternoon we will do it again.

“Here’s what we know – we’re going to launch American astronauts on an American rocket from American Earth. We’ll do it. We’re very close.”

When that happens, the launch will be the first crew from the US to orbit since NASA’s space shuttle program ended in 2011.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left behind, and Doug Hurley perform communications checks in the Crew Dragon capsule before launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (SpaceX via AP)

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left behind, and Doug Hurley perform communications checks in the Crew Dragon capsule before launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (SpaceX via AP)

Hurley, left and Behnken wave as they exit the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building on their way to Pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. The two astronauts will now fly on SpaceX test flights to ISS on Saturday

Hurley, left and Behnken wave as they exit the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building on their way to Pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. The two astronauts will now fly on SpaceX test flights to ISS on Saturday

Launch Director Mike Taylor cited a number of unspecified “weather violations” to stop the mission after a day of showers and a tornado warning.

Not only was there not enough time to wait for the weather to improve, but rain, clouds, clouds, lightning and field plant data – which measures the amount of electricity in the atmosphere – everything violated Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon start criteria needed to start at different times during the day.

While conditions improved shortly after the shot scrubbed, the law continued with the launch as the spaceship would have to leave on time to meet the ISS.

SpaceX CEO and owner Elon Musk and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine (L) wear protective face masks as they leave the astronauts' crew quarters prior to launch

SpaceX CEO and owner Elon Musk and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine (L) wear protective face masks as they leave the astronauts’ crew quarters prior to launch

Earlier, SpaceX chief Elon Musk said he accepted absolute responsibility if the launch of his Falcon 9 rocket would end up in tragedy. Elon Musk told CBS This Morning:

Earlier, SpaceX chief Elon Musk said he accepted absolute responsibility if the launch of his Falcon 9 rocket would end up in tragedy. Elon Musk told CBS This Morning: “I’m the chief engineer for this thing, so I’d just like to say that if it goes right, it’s credit to the SpaceX-NASA team. If it goes wrong, it’s my fault

For the first time in almost a decade, astronauts will blast into orbit aboard an American rocket from American Earth, a first for a private company

For the first time in almost a decade, astronauts will blast into orbit aboard an American rocket from American Earth, a first for a private company

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley were caught in the cabin of the Crew Dragon Capsule on top of the Falcon 9 rocket

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley were caught in the cabin of the Crew Dragon Capsule on top of the Falcon 9 rocket

Hurley, 53, and Behnken, 49, had been stuck in their seats for just over two hours before the launch was closed.

Both had to remain in the Crew Dragon canister until all the fuel in their rocket was released and the emergency evacuation system was deactivated.

“We could see some raindrops on the windows and just thought that whatever it was was too close to the launch pad when we needed it not to be,” said Hurley, the space commander, before leaving the Crew Dragon capsule.

A boat passes the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Launch of SpaceX test flight to international space station scrubbed by more than 16 minutes to go down countdown due to lightning strike

A boat passes the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Launch of SpaceX test flight to international space station scrubbed by more than 16 minutes to go down countdown due to lightning strike

“Understand that everyone has probably been tricked out. That’s just part of the deal. We’ll do it again, I think, on Saturday.”

“Estimate your resilience sitting there in the vehicle,” replied one controller.

“Nothing better than being a prime crew on a new spaceship,” Behnken replied.

British astronaut Tim Peake said it was a shame that the SpaceX launch scrubbed but added that “the rules are there in the security interest”.

A NASA helicopter escorts the crew to launch Pad 39-A, Wednesday, May 27, 2020, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Two astronauts will fly on the SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station scheduled to launch on Wednesday

A NASA helicopter escorts the crew to launch Pad 39-A, Wednesday, May 27, 2020, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Two astronauts will fly on the SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station scheduled to launch on Wednesday

The mission, named Demo-2, would have seen SpaceX become the first private company to send astronauts into space.

SpaceX, which has received billions of dollars from NASA since the late 2000s, has been supplying goods to ISS since 2012.

Since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011, NASA has depended on Russia’s space agency Roscosmos to transport its astronauts to the space station.

In 2014, NASA SpaceX and Boeing awarded contracts to provide manned launch services to the space station as part of its commercial crew program.

Command managers monitored a number of adverse weather conditions, including the threat of lightning strike, even as crews began to load the rocket with fuel, when the countdown clock was stopped

Command managers monitored a number of adverse weather conditions, including the threat of lightning strike, even as crews began to load the rocket with fuel, when the countdown clock was stopped

Spectators watch from Titusville, Florida, as SpaceX Falcon 9 prepares to take off with NASA astronauts on board. NASA went ahead with preparations despite coronavirus pandemic but asked onlookers to stay home - advice many did not follow

Spectators watch from Titusville, Florida, as SpaceX Falcon 9 prepares to take off with NASA astronauts on board. NASA went ahead with preparations despite coronavirus pandemic but asked onlookers to stay home – advice many did not follow

According to NASA, the purpose of the Demo-2 mission is to show SpaceX’s ability to ferry astronauts to the space station and safely back.

This is the last major step required by SpaceX’s astronaut, Crew Dragon, to be certified by NASA’s Commercial Crew program for more long-term manned space missions.

“What it is about today is to rule through the dream of space and get people suspended for the future,” Musk said in a NASA interview before the shooting.

Earlier, SpaceX chief Elon Musk said he accepted absolute responsibility if the launch of his Falcon 9 rocket would end up in tragedy.

Musk told CBS This Morning: ‘I’m a mechanical engineer for this thing, so I’d just like to say that if it goes right, it’s a credit to the SpaceX-NASA team. If things go wrong it’s my fault. ‘

SpaceX chief Elon Musk speaks during a press conference following the launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo mission at Kennedy Space Center

SpaceX chief Elon Musk speaks during a press conference following the launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo mission at Kennedy Space Center

Musk also told the astronauts young sons just before the launch attempt: “We’ve done everything we can to make sure your dads come back OK.”

NASA went ahead with the preparations despite the coronavirus pandemic but asked onlookers to stay home.

Despite this, thousands of people stuck to bridges and beaches in the area to watch, many of them not wearing masks or following the six foot rules of social distance.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump listen when Marillyn Hewson, CEO of Lockheed Martin, others from the left speak during a tour of NASA facilities before watching SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 Launch at Kennedy Space Center, May 27, 2020. From left , Vice President Mike Pence, Hewson, Second Lady Karen Pence, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, Donald Trump and Melania Trump

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump listen when Marillyn Hewson, CEO of Lockheed Martin, others from the left speak during a tour of NASA facilities before watching SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 Launch at Kennedy Space Center, May 27, 2020. From left , Vice President Mike Pence, Hewson, Second Lady Karen Pence, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, Donald Trump and Melania Trump

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had arrived in Florida to watch the launch before it was delayed.

Trump, who wondered before the launch of the “magnificent” rocket on the cushion, later tweeted that he will return to Florida for the next attempt, and the vice president did the same.

“Thanks to @NASA and @SpaceX for their hard work and leadership. Looking forward to being back with you on Saturday!” Said Trump.

The launch coverage on Saturday, May 30 begins at 11am EDT (4pm BST) on NASA Television, as well as the NASA live website and its various media channels.

SPACEX CREW DRAGON CAPSULE MEASURES 20FT AND CAN BEAR 7 ASTRONAUTS ACCORDING TO

The test on March 2, the first launch of American astronauts from American Earth in eight years, will provide information on system design and operations (artist's impression)

The test on March 2, the first launch of American astronauts from American Earth in eight years, will provide information on system design and operations (artist’s impression)

The canister measures approximately 20 feet high by 12 feet in diameter and will carry up to 7 astronauts at a time.

Crew Dragon has an advanced emergency evacuation system (tested earlier this year) to quickly bring astronauts to safety in case something goes wrong and experiences roughly the same G-forces as a trip in Disneyland.

It also has an Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) that provides a comfortable and safe environment for crew members.

Crew Dragon screens provide real-time information about the capacity of the spaceship and show everything from the Dragon’s position in space, to possible destinations, to the environment on board.

These CRS-2 Dragon missions will use “propulsive” landings, where the canister lands on a landing pad with its SuperDraco thrusters rather than splashing into the ocean.

It will give NASA faster access to the cargo returned by these spacecraft, and also build up experience for propulsive landings of manned Dragon spacecraft.


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