Shuttle Weather Support From Design To Launch To Return To Flight

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Wednesday, 1 February 2006: 1:30 PM
Shuttle Weather Support From Design To Launch To Return To Flight
A301 (Georgia World Congress Center)
Dan G. Bellue, NOAA/NWS, Johnson Space Center, TX; and W. W. Vaughan, B. F. Boyd, J. T. Madura, T. Garner, K. A. Winters, J. Weems, and H. C. Herring

Presentation PDF (1.0 MB)

For the second time in history, the Space Shuttle Program has undergone Return To Flight activities. The first time was after the 1986 Challenger Accident when Shuttle flights resumed in September 1988. The second resumption of activities occurred after the 2003 Columbia Accident when the Shuttle Discovery launched and landed safely in July 2005. Further testing is necessary before managers are satisfied that the Shuttle fleet can resume normal operations, hence a second Return To Flight Test is scheduled for May 2006. At that time the Shuttle crew is expected to carry on analysis of safety improvements that debuted on the STS-114 Return to Flight mission. Mission success and safety of aerospace vehicles have presented unique design requirements and weather support challenges since the first successful missile launch at Cape Canaveral in July 1950. Weather support requirements to ensure the safe processing, launch, and landing of these vehicles have been continuously reviewed and improved since then. The paper focuses on three areas of Space Shuttle support: system design, primarily the responsibility of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center; ground processing and launch support, primarily the responsibility of the United States Air Force's 45th Weather Squadron at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) and Kennedy Space Center (KSC); and space flight and landing support, primarily the responsibility of NOAA's Spaceflight Meteorology Group at Johnson Space Center. It addresses design requirements and weather support to the Space Shuttle from the time of the Shuttle's approval by President Nixon in 1972 through the second Return To Flight activities in 2005. Specifically, over the last 20 years, approximately 50 percent of all scrubbed launch countdowns at CCAFS/KSC and diverted or delayed landing attempts at KSC have been due to weather conditions, and the reasons for these launch scrubs/delays/diversions are examined. It illustrates the effective use of weather information in Shuttle operations, which translates both into annual cost savings of millions of dollars through timely management decisions, and into paramount contributions to safety.