2002 Annual

Wednesday, 16 January 2002: 2:30 PM
Facilitating the use of environmental information for space launch decisions
Billie F. Boyd, 45th Weather Squadron, U.S. Air Force, Patrick Air Force Base, FL; and D. E. Harms, M. S. Christie, D. J. Beberwyk, and J. W. Weems
Poster PDF (180.3 kB)
The Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron (45 WS) provides comprehensive operational meteorological services to the Eastern Range (ER) and the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). These services include weather support for resource protection, pre-launch ground processing, and day-of-launch operations for up to 40 launches per year by the Department of Defense (DOD), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and commercial launch customers.

To assess weather’s impact on launch operations, the 45 WS operates an extensive meteorological instrumentation network. Current systems include a vast meteorological tower network, a lightning detection system, an electric field mill network, a balloon based upper-air measurement system, a WSR-74C weather radar, and a 915 MHz boundary layer Doppler Radar Wind Profiler (DRWP) network. The ER also has direct access to weather satellite imagery, the National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN), the National Weather Service WSR-88D radar in Melbourne, Florida, and KSC’s 50 MHz DRWP and Lightning Detection and Ranging (LDAR) system.

Weather impacts, such as natural and triggered lightning, precipitation, cloud ceilings, visibility, and both surface and upper-level winds, present a significant challenge 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 information translates into annual cost savings of millions of dollars through timely management decisions along with a paramount contribution to safety.

Herein, the problem lies – the effective use of information. How do meteorologists translate this huge technical information database into layman’s terms enabling decision authorities to correctly assess risks? This paper presents an overview of weather systems supporting the space launch mission and associated ground processing operations. It also discusses procedures and means of communicating weather information to varied customers and launch decision authorities.

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