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Sherlock Ohms: The Case of the Earth Station Stopped by Lightning

Sherlock Ohms: The Case of the Earth Station Stopped by Lightning - RF CafeThis is another great RF troubleshooting saga; in fact, it would make a good short action film.  Designing and implementing proper lightning protection can be a real challenge - and quite expensive. Lightning has a nasty habit of seeking out and exploiting weaknesses. Author Rod Hine doesn't cite improper protection as the culprit for causing his woes in his telling of, The Case of the "Earth Station Stopped by Lightning." A couple decades ago I worked with a team that designed a prototype weather radar system with cobbled-together parts that included a surplus military phased array antenna. After doing all the initial design, build and test at our facility, everything was moved to an open air site that sat at the top of a ridge which was known to attract lightning like trailer parks attract tornadoes. A fair amount of effort went into lightning mitigation over the years, so we felt comfortable hooking into the existing system. All went fine for the remaining time I was there. About a year later I was talking to an engineer I had worked with and he said that the system rack had taken a major lightning strike and had to be totally rebuilt. After immediately being thankful that I wasn't  there to experience the disaster, I was told that the reason it happened was because the guy who plowed the site had disconnected a heavy copper ground cable that fed the antenna and rack to get the plow through, then forgot to reconnect it.

At least that is the story I was told... but I'll deny it in court.

Posted  August 21, 2013

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