The space weather experts who give the go-ahead on when to launch and avoid disaster

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Florida — On March 26, 1987, NASA launched Atlas/Centaur AC-26 from Cape Canaveral. Just 49 seconds after liftoff, it was struck by lightning.

The electrical charge of the lightning strike sent an erroneous message to the engines, causing them to overfire and the rocket to break up, leading to the break up of the launch vehicle.

Luckily, no astronauts were on board, but a multimillion-dollar Navy satellite that required years to manufacture was lost.

A NASA after-action report determined that although natural lightning conditions did not exist, the atmospheric conditions led the rocket to produce its
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