Helping with NASA’s lightning issues

Contours of the electric field at the ground shortly after the launch of VIKING 2.

Dave also had an impact on spacecraft launch criteria at NASA. He was NOAA Advisor during the launches of two Viking spacecraft, using surface and airborne electric field measurements to determine the risk of lightning during launches, and declaring “go,” or “no-go” for launch.

After the Atlas-Centaur 67 rocket and payload were destroyed by triggered lightning in 1988, NASA and the Air Force 45th Weather Squadron formed the 8-member Lightning Advisory Panel (LAP) which included Dave.  For 22 years, the LAP has drawn upon results of atmospheric electricity research worldwide to understand the hazards from atmospheric electricity and to incorporate the research results into launch-day operations.  The resulting Lightning Launch Commit Criteria were adopted by NASA manned and unmanned programs, DOD, FAA, and even commercial companies and spaceports. NASA honored Dave’s work with several NASA Group Achievement Awards (see awards section in “Talks and Articles“), the NASA Robert H. Goddard Trophy: Viking Mission to Mars, and most recently, the Space Flight Awareness Team Award presented by the NASA Space Shuttle Launch Director.

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