Statistical and probability studies of lightning strike and damage data performed at KSC/CCAFS over the years has resulted in a comprehensive set of lightning protection systems and methods. For instance, different techniques have been applied to KSC’s launch pad structures to estimate the lightning protection effectiveness for the gaseous oxygen vent arm. In-depth studies of indirect effects caused by nearby lightning strikes have also affected the lightning protection criteria.
Lightning protection at the Space Shuttle launch pads is provided primarily by a 70-foot insulating fiberglass mast 5 feet in diameter located on the Fixed Service Structure with a lightning rod at the top of the mast. A catenary wire running from the top of the mast to grounding points 1000 feet to the north and south of the tower is used to direct the current away from the pad structure. The lightning protection mast is struck an average of three times per year. Nevertheless, there have been instances when a lightning flash has traveled past the catenary wire protection and has directly struck the launch pad structure.
Overhead protective grids, grounded at multiple points, are widely used at CCAFS and at selected installations at KSC. These grids are intended to divert the lightning current to ground and to prevent it from causing damage to sensitive equipment or personnel working underneath. Other launch pads at KSC/CCAFS use different lightning protection designs.
This paper presents a compilation of the lightning protection systems in use at KSC and CCAFS, as well as a description of the systems used to monitor the lightning activity and its direct and indirect effects.