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Another launch failure.

Another launch failure

Weather has long been a concernduring orbit-bound launchings from Florida's Cape Canaveral, where low January temperatures have been one possible factor cited in the explosion of the space shuttle. This week, NASA investigators were looking to see whether another meteorological hazard --lightning--was connected with the March 26 loss of an $83 million military communications satellite when its $78 million Atlas-Centaur rocket went out of control and had to be destroyed.

Lightning was in the skies that morning,and officials later announced that four lightning bolts were detected about 48 seconds after litoff. In addition, there were "large current and electrical transients' as well as "major changes' recorded by accelerometers in both rocket stages and the satellite's housing.

NASA safety regulations say thatlaunches need be scrubbed only if lightning is detected within 5 miles of the launchpad, and the nearest prelaunch bolt initially announced by the investigators was about 16 miles away, 16 minutes before launch. The bolts during the ascent, however, were said to have been recorded as little as 1.9 miles from the site. Officials expressed hope that debris being dredged from the Atlantic would include an on-board control unit that possibly mis-aimed the rocket's engines and sent the flight off course.
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Title Annotation:Atlas-Centaur rocket
Author:Eberhart, Jonathan
Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 4, 1987
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