Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Triboelectrification Is Halting The Space Shuttle's Launch - You Do Know What Triboelectrification Is, Right?


Don't worry. I didn't know what it was either. What I found out is that in simple terms, it's static in the atmosphere. Specifically, here's how NASA.gov defines triboelectrification:

The skies look clear except for some high clouds, there’s no rain in the immediate forecast, so why might a rocket not launch? The answer is something called triboelectrification. While this isn’t a word you encounter every day, you might experience it if you walk across a dry carpet or brush up against a cat and then touch a metal surface: it’s static.

In the case of Ares I-X, flying through high-level clouds can generate “P-static” (P for precipitation), which can create a corona of static around the rocket that interferes with radio signals sent by or to the rocket. This would create problems when the rocket tries to transmit data down to the ground or if the Range Safety Officer at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station needed to send a signal to the flight termination system. Until the 45th Space Wing and observer aircraft indicate that the skies are clear, Ares I-X will wait them out.

Huh. Well, now you know what it is. Don't you feel smarter already...

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