Providing Tropical Cyclone Weather Support to Space Launch Operations
Katherine A. Winters, 45th Weather Squadron, Patrick AFB, FL; and J. W. Weems, F. C. Flinn, G. B. Kubat, S. B. Cocks, and J. T. Madura
Tropical cyclones pose a significant threat to the Eastern Range (ER) and Kennedy Space Center (KSC), located on the Florida East Coast. Thus the ER and KSC space launch programs must carefully plan for and quickly react to tropical cyclone threats to protect both personnel, and unique flight hardware, facilities, and other resources worth billions of dollars. Some protective actions are complex and weather sensitive, such as rolling the Shuttle back from the launch pad, and must begin as much as three days before arrival of a storm's outer bands. The challenge is helping the customer determine what actions to take and when to take them. This requires assessing the storm's potential range of tracks, speed of movement, intensity, and radius of tropical storm and hurricane force winds; and communicating the resultant risk that customers' weather thresholds will be exceeded as a function of time. Many actions are very costly, shut down operations, and/or delay scheduled launches. However, the consequences of acting too late or too little can result in costly damage. Therefore, every tropical cyclone threat must be assessed carefully and then that threat must be clearly communicated.
The 45th Weather Squadron (45 WS) provides weather support to the ER and KSC including critical tropical cyclone support. When a storm threatens ER and KSC assets, the 45 WS provides detailed information to launch agencies on the threat of the storm including track, timing, intensity, and storm size, based on the National Hurricane Center's (NHC's) forecasts. Given this information, NASA and Air Force senior managers must then decide if and when to begin the actions necessary to protect resources.
This paper describes the process used by the 45 WS to provide tropical cyclone forecasts to senior managers. Included are the typical NHC products used to “tailor” weather support for the customer, including the new experimental wind probability product. Also included are specific forecast concerns for the customers and several examples illustrating the 45 WS weather support for specific storms.
Extended Abstract (400K)
Session 9A, Tropical Cyclone Prediction III - Applications
Wednesday, 26 April 2006, 1:30 PM-3:00 PM, Regency Grand BR 4-6
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