Lightning Strikes Russian Rocket During Satellite Launch (But Everything’s Fine)

A Russian Soyuz 2.1b rocket is struck by lightning as it launches a Glonass-M navigation satellite into orbit from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on May 27, 2019.
(Image: © Roscosmos/Dmitry Rogozin via Twitter)

A bolt of lightning struck a Russian Soyuz rocket during a satellite launch Monday (May 27), but did not hinder the booster’s trip into space, Russian space officials said.

The lightning strike occurred during the launch of a Glonass-M navigation satellite from Russia’s Plesetsk Cosmodrome about 500 miles (800 kilometers) north of Moscow at 9:23 a.m. Moscow time (0623 GMT). In a statement, officials with Russia’s space agency Roscosmos announced that the rocket successfully reached orbit.

“Lightning is not an obstacle for you!” Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin wrote on Twitter while congratulating the Glonass-M launch team and military Space Forces. He shared a wild video of rocket as it was struck by lightning.

Roscosmos used a Soyuz 2.1b booster equipped with a Fregat upper stage to launch Glonass-M, the latest in a series of navigation satellites to support Russia’s military and civilian customers.

“A stable telemetric connection is established and maintained with the spacecraft,” officials with Russia’s Ministry of Defense wrote in this translated update. “The on-board systems of the Glonass-M spacecraft are functioning normally.”

Lightning strikes during rocket launches are rare, but not unprecedented.

In November 1969, lightning struck a Saturn V rocket twice during the launch of NASA’s Apollo 12 mission to the moon.

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