13th Conference on Applied Climatology and the 10th Conference on Aviation, Range, and Aerospace Meteorology

Monday, 13 May 2002: 10:15 AM
Advanced Weather Projects Desired to Improve Space Launch from the Eastern Range and Kennedy Space Center
William P. Roeder, U.S. Air Force/45th Weather Squadron, Patrick AFB, FL; and F. J. Merceret, B. F. Boyd, F. C. Brody, and D. E. Harms
Poster PDF (328.9 kB)
Weather support to space launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the Eastern Range (ER) and Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in east central Florida is highly specialized and atypical from most other types of operational meteorology. The weather requirements for space launch, pre-launch processing, and post-launch activities are extremely complex and customer-driven. To support these requirements, the world’s most diverse and dense suite of operational weather sensors is used. This is especially true of the atmospheric electricity instrumentation. However, these same weather sensors also complicate the weather support in that it is difficult to maximize their use by forecasters, due to the non-standard data types and the sheer volume of data. Finally, the weather itself can be very challenging to analyze and forecast in central Florida. During summer, the synoptic drivers are so weak that subtle mesoscale processes definitely dominate. What would normally be secondary or tertiary effects elsewhere often control the formation of convection. Even cloud shadow boundaries are sometimes used to predict where thunderstorms will form.

The following twelve projects are identified as potential areas to significantly improve weather support to space launch from the ER/KSC. In this context, “advanced” projects are those that are too large, too expensive, and/or too technical to be done by the operational weather support offices or by their normal operational research avenues. The twelve projects identified to date are as follows:

1) Extremely Advanced Mesoscale Numerical Weather Prediction 2) Dual-Polarization Weather Radar 3) Automated Weather Warning Dissemination 4) Fill Data Voids 5) Integration and Display of Weather Sensors 6) Improved 50 MHz Doppler Radar Wind Profiling (DRWP) 7) AFIT Weather Laboratory Upgrades 8) Cloud Depiction Device 9) Global Positioning Satellite-Precipitable Water (GPS-PW) Micro-Network 10) Improved Lightning Launch Commit Criteria (LCC) 11) Automated Weather Forecast Advisor / Training Assistant 12) Remote Sensing Electric Field Profiler

This paper will briefly review the complexities of weather support to the space program at the ER/KSC, the suite of operational weather sensors used in that support, and the challenges of weather forecasting in east central Florida. The majority of the paper will describe the desired advanced weather projects and explain how they could improve weather support to space launch operations. The authors hope this paper will open discussion on possible ways to implement these advanced weather projects into space launch operations.

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