NASA Artemis I launch countdown begins, team assesses launch pad lightning strikes

Lightning Strike Artemis I at Pad 39B

This image of a lightning strike was recorded at Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the evening of April 2, 2022. On the afternoon of Saturday August 27, there were three lightning strikes lightning strikes on the towers of the Pad 39B launch lightning protection system – one strike on tower 1 and two strikes on tower 2. Credit: NASA

weather guidelines for NASA’s Artemis I flight test identify conditions to launch the agency’s Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft.

NASA held a prelaunch media briefing. Participants included:

  • Mike Sarafin, Artemis mission manager, NASA Headquarters
  • Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis launch director, Exploration Ground Systems Program, Kennedy
  • Judd Freiling, ascent and entry flight director, Johnson
  • Rick LaBrode, lead flight director, Johnson
  • Melissa Jones, recovery director, Exploration Ground Systems Program, Kennedy
  • Melody Lovin, weather officer, Space Launch Delta 45
  • Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist, Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters


Artemis I leadership team provides pre-launch briefing after mission management team meeting prior to Artemis I launch. NASA Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft will be launched from Center 39B’s launch pad during a flight test around the Moon on August 29. The uncrewed mission will demonstrate the ability of the SLS rocket to safely transport the Orion spacecraft around the Moon and its return and recovery to Earth for the agency’s Artemis program.

NASA also held a briefing (embedded above) on their Moon to[{” attribute=””>Mars exploration plans with the following participants:

  • Bill Nelson, NASA administrator
  • Bhavya Lal, NASA associate administrator for technology, policy, and strategy
  • Jim Free, NASA associate administrator, Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate
  • Kathy Lueders, NASA associate administrator, Space Operations Mission Directorate
  • Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate
  • Prasun Desai, NASA deputy associate administrator, Space Technology Mission Directorate
  • Randy Bresnik, NASA astronaut

NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft are scheduled to lift off from Kennedy’s Launch Pad 39B during a two-hour launch window that opens at 8:33 a.m. EDT (5:33 a.m. PDT) on Monday, August 29.

Lightning Strike With Artemis I at Pad 39B

A lightning strike was recorded at Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida during the evening of April 2, 2022. NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft were undergoing a prelaunch test called a wet dress rehearsal at the pad for the Artemis I mission. The lightning strike was recorded by cameras stationed at the pad and mobile launcher using a special filter called a “clear day frame,” which provides an overlay of the raw frame on a reference image. Artemis I will be the first integrated test of the SLS and Orion spacecraft. Credit: NASA

As the Artemis I countdown progresses, rain and thunderstorms continued throughout yesterday afternoon at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Earlier yesterday afternoon, there were three lightning strikes to the lightning protection system towers at Launch Pad 39B – a strike to Tower 1, and two strikes to Tower 2. Fortunately, the initial indications are that the strikes were of low magnitude.

A weather team has begun an assessment that includes collecting voltage and current data, as well as imagery. The data will be shared with a team of experts on electromagnetic environment efforts who will determine if any constraints on vehicle or ground systems were violated. Engineers will conduct a walkdown at the pad overnight, and if needed, conduct additional assessments with subsystems experts.


Take a look at various lightning strikes over the years at Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The event was captured by high-speed cameras stationed on the pad and mobile launcher as well as the vehicle assembly building. For images that appear to be in daylight, a special filter called “bright daytime frame” was used, which provides an overlay of the raw frame on a reference image. At Pad 39B, there are three 600-foot-tall masts with overhead wires used to transmit electrical power around the perimeter of the pad to provide lightning protection for launchers as they are tackled and launched from the pad. Click here to learn more about Lightning Rounds.

The launch pad lightning protection system includes three 600-foot-tall towers and catenary wires positioned to protect the rocket, spacecraft and mobile launch vehicle. The wires run down to the ground almost diagonally, directing the lightning current away from the rocket.

Overnight, engineers will also make preparations on the umbilicals, power the core stage, and begin charging the Orion core stage and space launch system batteries.

The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight test that will provide a foundation for expanding the human presence on the Moon and beyond. The mission will demonstrate the performance of the SLS rocket and test Orion’s capabilities for about six weeks as it travels about 40,000 miles past the Moon and back to Earth.

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