The News Today
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9.22.20
It's Electric

Watch Lightning Strike a Rocket as It Launches

May 28th 19__Kristin Houser__Filed Under: Off World
Victor Tangermann

Ride the Lightning

In Russia, a little lightning isn’t enough to stop a rocket from completing its mission.

On Monday, Russian space agency Roscosmos launched a Soyuz 2-1b rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, a spaceport about 800 kilometers (497 miles) north of Moscow. About 10 seconds later, a massive bolt of lightning struck the spacecraft — a remarkable sight captured on video by numerous spectators.

Mission: Still Possible

The lightning strike might look dramatic, but it had no impact on the mission — the rocket spent the next 3.5 hours making its way into low-Earth orbit, where it delivered a Glonass-M navigation satellite into orbit.

“Lightning is not an obstacle to you,” tweeted Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin alongside a video of the lightning strike.

Rocket Science

This isn’t the first time lightning has struck an ascending rocket — famously, lightning struck one of NASA’s Saturn V rockets during the 1969 launch of the crewed Apollo 12 mission not once, but twice.

Thankfully, the people designing these rockets understand that sending a massive hunk of metal into the sky might attract lightning, and so they build the craft accordingly.

“The weather is not an obstacle and we [the Space Force of Russia’s Aerospace Forces] are all-weather troops,” Plesetsk Cosmodrome chief Nikolai Nestechuk told Russian news agency TASS. “This is yet another proof that lightning cannot damage our aerospace weapons.”

READ MORE: Wild Footage Shows Lightning Strike Russia’s Soyuz Rocket Mid-Launch [Science Alert]

More on Roscosmos: Expert: SpaceX Just Made Russia’s Space Program “Null and Void”