NASA/KSC/CCAFS Launch Pad Lightning Warning System (LPLWS)

The LPLWS is comprised of 31 AGBFM sensors located about NASA/KSC and the CCAFS. The 45th Weather Squadron operates the Range Weather Operations, which utilzes the surface electric field data from the LPLWS with data from wind sensors, LDAR (Lightning Detection and Ranging), and the NLDN (National Lightning Detection Network) and satellite imagery to forcast and provide weather advisories for Shuttle and ELV (Expendable Launch Vehicle) preparation and launch activities.

Refer to Lightning and the Space Program (.pdf) for more information.

The Prototype Electric Field Mill, predecessor to the AGBFM, was developed by Thunderstorm Technology in 1988. The photo shows the unit deployed for field test and evaluation at a CCAS (Cape Canaveral Air Station) coastal location. The inverted support stand was adapted from a New Mexico Tech design. The incorporation of a 14-bit digitizer allows a 4% measurement of the fair weather field (~ -100 v/m to -200 v/m) while maintaining sufficient dynamic range to resolve thunderstorm level fields (~ +20kv/m to 30 kv/m, max)

An operational, certified, inverted tripod-mounted AGBFM unit at CCAFS is shown at right. The tripod support is designed to prevent noise due to physical motion of the sensor and to allow the AGBFM survive hurricane force winds. Each AGBFM maintains the 14-bit precision of the Prototype EFM and incorporates a microprocessor which:

Field test results shoed that AGBFM accuracy was far more stable that the existing "current" field mills. This achievement translated into greatly reduced maintenance overhead and insured a much higher degree of reliability and availability for the LPLWS.