85th AMS Annual Meeting

Monday, 10 January 2005
An operational system for real-time lightning display and resource protection
Erik G. Magnuson, ENSCO, Inc., Cocoa Beach, FL; and S. L. Arnold and A. V. Dianic
The Meteorological and Range Safety Support (MARSS) system combines real-time lightning acquisition and display with meteorological/toxic hazard support capability to protect personnel and property engaged in launch vehicle processing, propellant handling, and launch support activities at the nation's primary space launch ranges. The principle users for MARSS are the Air Force's 45th and 30th Space Wings and NASA's Kennedy Space Center. These organizations provide joint base toxic and hazard support activities for their facilities, personnel and surrounding communities.

The general system architecture is composed of both redundant data pre-processors and display stations (typically the same processing hardware), including one custom pre-processor/protocol converter to ingest data from the LDAR (Lightning Detection and Ranging) network at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC). In addition to LDAR, the MARSS system ingests real-time data from a total of 4 operational lightning detection and location systems: 1) The Lighting Detection And Ranging (LDAR) system at KSC/CCAFS, 2) The Launch Pad Lightning Warning System (LPLWS) at KSC/CCAFS, 3) The Cloud to Ground Lightning Surveillance System (CGLSS) at KSC/CCAFS/PAFB (an earlier variant of the LP2000), and 4) The Lightning Location and Protection System (LLPS) at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), a Solaris-based LP2000 system from Global Atmospherics Inc (now Vaisala).

The single common data format for all these systems is ASCII, however all ingested instrumentation (including lightning data) is stored in an internal binary format. Incoming data types include UALF (Universal ASCII Lightning Format) from CGLSS and LLPS, with data rates up to 100 points/minute, as well as field mill grids, center of charge, and field mill value tables from LPLWS, varying from 100 points/minute for the center of charge data, to 1 and 5 minute updates of the grids and value tables. LDAR data is processed as it comes in, and is binned with the rest of the data at the pre-processor. The MARSS lightning display provides an automated update of lightning strike data once per second, while displayed lightning strike data is color-coded by age (updated once per minute; data older than 30 minutes is removed) on a localized background map, with user-selectable range rings. Additional capabilities include monitoring of real-time lightning data for violations of active constraints, as well as visual and audible alarms when violations are detected. Lightning alert criteria are specified by an alert zone's center, radius, and the time of threshold violation of a lightning strike.

Supplementary URL: