32nd Conference on Broadcast Meteorology/31st Conference on Radar Meteorology/Fifth Conference on Coastal Atmospheric and Oceanic Prediction and Processes

Monday, 11 August 2003: 12:00 PM
Use of Weather Radar to Support America's Space Program—Past, Present, and Future
B. F. Boyd, 45th Weather Squadron, U.S. Airforce, Patrick AFB, FL; and J. W. Weems, W. P. Roeder, C. S. Pinder, and T. M. McNamara
Poster PDF (240.5 kB)
The Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron (45 WS) provides weather service to the Eastern Range (ER) and the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in support of America’s space program. These services include weather support for personnel safety and resource protection, pre-launch ground processing, day-of-launch, post-launch, and special operations for more than 30 space launch countdowns per year by the Department of Defense (DOD), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and commercial launch customers.

Weather impacts, such as natural and triggered lightning, boundary layer winds (especially downbursts), upper-level winds, precipitation, cloud ceilings, and visibility present significant challenges to spacelift. Over the last 15 years, approximately 50 percent of all scrubbed launch countdowns have been due to weather conditions. The effective use of weather radar information translates into annual cost savings of millions of dollars through timely management decisions along with a paramount contribution to safety.

To lessen weather’s impact to launch operations, NASA, the Air Force and their contractors continually strive to improve weather measurement and forecasts. This paper presents an overview of weather radar use on the ER and KSC supporting the space launch mission and associated ground processing operations. It summarizes the near-term history of weather radar with special emphasis on system improvements, describes the current system, presents special radar applications such as lightning Launch Commit Criteria, lightning forecasting, and downburst forecasting, and discusses plans for improved weather radar support.

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