Expressjs is a fast, unopinionated, minimalist web framework for Node.js. Few functionalities like graceful shutdown, health checks etc are implicitly mandatory features for any production application. When you deploy a new version of your application, you must replace the previous version. Previous version app should stop accepting new requests, finish all the ongoing requests, clean up the resources it used, including database connections and file locks then exit. Similarly, health checks are needed to determine if an application instance is healthy and can accept requests.


Lightship is an open-source project that adds health, readiness and liveness checks to your application. Lightship is a standalone HTTP-service that runs as a separate HTTP service; this allows having health-readiness-liveness HTTP endpoints without exposing them on the public interface.


npm install lightship --save

Then, add below code into your expressjs server.

const express = require('express');
const { createLightship } = require('lightship');

const configuration: ConfigurationInput = {};
const lightship: Lightship = await createLightship(configuration);

const app = express();

// other app related configuration code

app.listen(3000, () => lightship.signalReady());

lightship.registerShutdownHandler(() => {


(async () => {
  // `whenFirstReady` returns a promise that is resolved the first time that
  // the service goes from `SERVER_IS_NOT_READY` to `SERVER_IS_READY` state.
  await lightship.whenFirstReady();


If Lightship detects that it is running in a non-Kubernetes environment (e.g. your local machine) then…

  • It starts the HTTP service on any available HTTP port. This is done to avoid port collision when multiple services using Lightship are being developed on the same machine.

  • shutdownDelay defaults to 0, i.e. immediately proceed to execute the shutdown routine.

Detection of the local-mode can be overridden by setting {detectKubernetes: false}


Once running, we get 3 endpoints:

Api endpoint: /health

The /health endpoint describes the current state of a Nodejs/expressjs service.

The endpoint responds:

  • 200 status code, message “SERVER_IS_READY” when server is accepting new connections.
  • 500 status code, message “SERVER_IS_NOT_READY” when server is initialising.
  • 500 status code, message “SERVER_IS_SHUTTING_DOWN” when server is shutting down.

Api endpoint: /live

The /live endpoint responds:

  • 200 status code, message “SERVER_IS_NOT_SHUTTING_DOWN”.
  • 500 status code, message “SERVER_IS_SHUTTING_DOWN”.

Used to configure liveness probe.

Api endpoint: /ready

The /ready endpoint responds:

  • 200 status code, message “SERVER_IS_READY”.
  • 500 status code, message “SERVER_IS_NOT_READY”.

Used to configure readiness probe.


Lightship has two timeout configurations: gracefulShutdownTimeout and shutdownHandlerTimeout.

gracefulShutdownTimeout (default: 30 seconds) is a number of milliseconds Lightship waits for Node.js process to exit gracefully after it receives a shutdown signal (either via process or by calling lightship.shutdown()) before killing the process using process.exit(1).

This timeout should be sufficiently big to allow Node.js process to complete tasks (if any) that are active at the time that the shutdown signal is received (e.g. complete serving responses to all HTTP requests)

shutdownHandlerTimeout (default: 5 seconds) is a number of milliseconds. Lightship waits for shutdown handlers (see registerShutdownHandler) to complete before killing the process using process.exit(1).

Read more Usage with examples.

Best Practices

Add a delay before stop handling incoming requests

It is important that you do not cease to handle new incoming requests immediatelly after receiving the shutdown signal. This is because there is a high probability of the SIGTERM signal being sent well before the iptables rules are updated on all nodes. The result is that the pod may still receive client requests after it has received the termination signal. If the app stops accepting connections immediately, it causes clients to receive “connection refused” types of errors.

Properly shutting down an application includes these steps:

Wait for a few seconds, then stop accepting new connections, Close all keep-alive connections that aren’t in the middle of a request, Wait for all active requests to finish, and then Shut down completely. See Handling Client Requests Properly with Kubernetes for more information.


Lightship is a valuable tool for incorporating health checks into our application to ensure its smooth operation.

By utilizing Lightship, we can effortlessly send signals to indicate the running status of our application. The endpoints offered by Lightship enable us to conveniently monitor the health and performance of both our app and server.

In non-Kubernetes environments, Lightship operates as an independent service, enhancing its versatility and compatibility.

✨ Thank you for reading and I hope you find it helpful. I sincerely request for your feedback in the comment’s section.