The Automated Meteorological Profiling System (AMPS) is a balloon tracked, GPS-based system slated to arrive on Vandenberg AFB CA in the Fall of 1998. The AMPS was procured and developed to replace the aging Meteorological Sounding Systems (MSS) and the radar-tracked Jimsphere balloons. The MSS was installed in 1982 to provide temperature, humidity and pressure profiles and low-resolution wind profiles. The radar-tracked Jimsphere balloons, used at Vandenberg since the early 1970's, are used to provide high-resolution wind profile measurements in support of space and missile launches.
The MSS is increasingly difficult to sustain, and there is a growing demand for the radars that track Jimsphere balloons. For these two primary reasons, AMPS was pursued and placed on contract. The AMPS will track up to five balloons, a mix of low- and high- resolution balloons, simultaneously. The AMPS low-resolution balloons will provide thermodynamic data every two seconds, and both low- and high-resolution balloons will provide wind direction and speed every 100ft. The low-resolution balloon will reach 100kft and the high-resolution balloon will reach 55kft.
The advantages of the new GPS system are the accuracy and reliability. GPS with a receiver, including differential calculations, has a velocity accuracy of less than a 0.33ft/s, which is 10 times better than a radar. The position in space accuracy is 25ft or better. For the development of AMPS, the horizontal wind accuracy required for the low-resolution balloon is 5ft/s vector difference with an effective vertical resolution of 1200ft. The horizontal wind accuracy required for the high-resolution balloon is 3ft/s vector difference with a vertical resolution of 400ft.
The AMPS will be in an Operational Utility Evaluation (OUE) mode for a 10-month period. The AMPS balloons will be tested in all critical climate, seasons, and in all types of weather specific to Vandenberg. Atmospheric profile data are critical to space launch customers for loads and vehicle steering, as well as toxic and debris hazard assessments. The AMPS data are expected to be an improvement to the current MSS and radar-tracked Jimsphere data. However, both, the Air Force and the launch customers need to know and become confident with the data before the AMPS system is accepted for launch operations.
The 8th Conference on Aviation, Range, and Aerospace Meteorology