Session 6.3 The Applied Meteorology Unit—operational contributions to Spaceport Canaveral

Wednesday, 6 October 2004: 8:45 AM
William H. Bauman III, ENSCO, Inc., Cocoa Beach, FL; and W. P. Roeder, R. Lafosse, D. W. Sharp, and F. J. Merceret

Presentation PDF (746.0 kB)

The Applied Meteorology Unit (AMU) provides technology development, evaluation and transition services to improve operational weather support to the Space Shuttle and the National Space Program. It is established under a Memorandum of Understanding among NASA, the Air Force and the National Weather Service (NWS). The AMU is funded and managed by NASA and operated by ENSCO, Inc. through a competitively awarded NASA contract. The primary customers are the 45 Weather Squadron (45WS) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), FL; the Spaceflight Meteorology Group (SMG) at Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, TX; and the NWS office in Melbourne, FL (NWS MLB).

The staff of the AMU includes a Ph.D. level NASA scientist who also serves as the Government Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative and Chief of the AMU and five contractor personnel with a mix of advanced degrees, extensive operational weather experience, and/or experience in local meteorology. A broad range of expertise is maintained including mesoscale meteorology, numerical weather prediction, radar meteorology, thunderstorm and associated hazards prediction, applied statistics, instrumentation, computer visualization, and management of meteorological information. The AMU is collocated with Range Weather Operations at CCAFS and visits both SMG and NWS MLB to facilitate bi-directional communication between the unit and its customers.

This paper will briefly review the AMU’s history and describe the three processes through which its work is assigned. The first process is a formal, prioritized quasi-annual tasking that allocates the 5 contractor full-time equivalents (FTE) based on consensus of the three tasking agencies at a face-to-face meeting. The second process is ‘option hours’ tasking, where any of the tasking agencies may purchase additional FTE from the AMU beyond the NASA-funded five on a non-interference basis with the formally prioritized tasks. Finally, there is ‘operational immediate’ tasking, where technical consultation requiring the special skills of the AMU is needed immediately to support a time-critical operation. Though ‘operational immediate’ tasks are rare, the AMU provides at least one person to support all launches in case they are needed.

Since its inception in 1991 the AMU has completed 53 formal projects, all of which will be listed in the paper. One project that highlights each of the three tasking processes will be briefly reviewed. Some of the projects that have been especially beneficial to the space program will also be discussed in more detail, as will projects that developed significant new techniques or science in applied meteorology. Some examples include: a tool for nowcasting thunderstorm anvil clouds, forecast guidance for land breezes, the Local Data Integration System which combines meteorological data into a self-consistent analysis, forecast guidance for low-level point peak winds, a radar scan strategy optimized for local atmospheric electricity, evaluations of various numerical models, tools and techniques for downburst prediction, and tools and techniques for chaff identification.

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