An earlier blog post attempted to answer questions about triboelectrification. Since there are still a few questions floating around we’re reposting it for those who missed it on the first go-round.
Flight Rules and Triboelectrification (Whatthe Heck is That?)
The skies look clear except for some high clouds, there’s no rain in theimmediate forecast, so why might a rocket not launch? The answer is somethingcalled 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 acat 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 aroundthe rocket that interferes with radio signals sent by or to the rocket. Thiswould create problems when the rocket tries to transmit data down to the groundor if the Range Safety Officer at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station needed tosend a signal to the flight termination system. Until the 45th Space Wing andobserver aircraft indicate that the skies are clear, Ares I-X will wait themout.