KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – A lightning strike near NASA’s mega moon rocket on Saturday has teams at the Kennedy Space Center investigating whether any damage was done to critical systems ahead of Monday’s planned launch.
Video from a NASA stream showed at least one bolt hitting launch pad 39B’s lightning protection system around 1:15 p.m.
The 322-foot-tall Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft appeared unscathed from the Florida storm, but during an afternoon briefing, agency leaders said they aren’t taking any chances.
“The vehicle is so attractive it got nice a lightning strike to lightning tower number two.” Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator for exploration systems development, said. “It looks like it was a low-magnitude strike. It has the potential to have crossed the threshold, but the teams are looking on, as you can imagine. There are a lot of nuance parts of lightning strike analysis that you have to do.”
The event is the second since April, where a lightning strike has been captured on video and radar impacting the area around the rocket.
Back on April 2, NASA said one of the strongest bolts ever to hit the space center struck the launch complex’s lightning protection system.
Despite the tremendous energy, the agency reported there was no damage to the Space Launch System rocket or Orion spacecraft.
Similar to the springtime event, Florida is stuck in wet pattern with daily chances of showers and thunderstorms.
Even with the rain, meteorologists from Patrick Space Force Base believe there could be enough clearing on Monday morning for a launch attempt.
At last check, the team said there was a 70 percent chance that weather conditions would not interfere with the unscrewed mission.
If the rocket is cleared to fly, the launch window is slated to open at 8:33 a.m.
A successful mission would pave the way for the agency to proceed with future phases of the program that could land astronauts on the moon by 2025.