14th Conference on Applied Climatology


Use of Archived Weather Data from Spaceport Florida in Support of Space Shuttle Columbia Accident Investigation

Katherine A. Winters, 45th Weather Squadron, Patrick AFB, FL; and W. P. Roeder, J. T. Madura, and H. C. Herring


Submitted to the 14th Conference on Applied Climatology

11 – 15 Jan 04, Seattle, Washington






K.A. Winters and W.P. Roeder*

John T. Madura

KSC Weather Office, Kennedy Space Center, FL

Hal Herring

Computer Science Raytheon, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL




Weather is a critical concern for Space Shuttle Operations.  Weather sensitivities are well defined for every operation in which the vehicle is exposed including the horizontal rollover to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) for stacking, the vertical rollout to the launch pad, and launch pad operations through launch.  Due to these weather sensitivities and the exposure of the vehicle during the time on the launch pad, archiving weather data is critical to maintain a historical database for each mission from the vehicle’s first exposure through launch.


NASA rolled STS-107 to the launch pad on December 9, 2002.  On January 17, 2003, STS-107 launched successfully into orbit, but on February 1, 2003, experienced a catastrophic failure upon return to Earth.  All seven crew members and the Columbia were lost. 


From December 13 - 20, 2002, while STS-107 was on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, the 45th Space Wing performed a much needed, bi-annual power outage at the Range Operations Control Center to perform maintenance.   During this time there was not enough power available to perform the normal weather data archive.  Although the power outage was not a factor in the Columbia accident, it still caused difficulty when collecting and analyzing data after-the-fact.  Ultimately, most data gaps caused by the power outage were filled by alternate archive sources at Kennedy Space Center, but the experience re-emphasized the continued need to archive all weather data at the Eastern Range.


This paper presents the process for consolidating archived Eastern Range weather data for the STS-107 accident investigation and includes the challenges created by an 8-day data gap.  This paper will not cover the use of the data by the accident board and other investigating teams, but rather the importance of archiving weather data, and doing so in a standard format which allows multiple types of analyses from the same data source.




*Corresponding Author Address:

William P. Roeder                                              phone:  (321) 494-5916

Patrick AFB, FL 32925-3238

extended abstract  Extended Abstract (216K)

Poster Session 4, Data Reliability, Quality Asssessment and Usability
Wednesday, 14 January 2004, 2:30 PM-4:00 PM, Hall AB

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