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Commit to Launch: NASA Weather Instrumentation
The equipment used by the forecaster to develop the downrange and launch clearance forecast are:

Image of a space shuttle taking off for space.Radar: The color weather radar display is located at the Cape Canaveral Forecast Facility. The antenna is located on Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach. Echo returns, and information about rain intensity and cloud tops may be observed up to a distance of 200 nautical miles. Also available to the Shuttle Weather Officer is a display of two NOAA radars, the National Weather Service radar in Daytona Beach and a new doppler weather radar in Melbourne.

Field Mill Network: Thirty-one field mill sites around KSC and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station provide a contour map of electric fields and lightning activity. This tool assists the forecaster in determining that the lightning avoidance criteria are met.

Lightning Detection System: Plots cloud-to-ground lightning strikes within 125 miles of the Range Weather Facility.

Lightning Detection And Ranging (LDAR): A new system developed by NASA, undergoing evaluation, LDAR is a three-dimensional system that plots cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning up to 100 miles distant from Cape Canaveral.

Rawinsonde: A balloon with a tethered instrument package which radios to the ground its altitude with weather data on temperature, dewpoint and humidity, wind speed and direction, and pressure. A rawinsonde may reach an altitude as high as 100,000 feet.

Jimsphere Balloon: A reflective balloon made of mylar tracked by radar, which provides highly accurate information on wind speed and wind direction up to 60,000 feet.

Rocketsonde: On L-1 day, a 12-foot-tall instrumented rocket is launched. It returns data on temperature, wind speed and direction, wind shear, pressure, and air density at the altitude region between 65,000 feet and 370,000 feet. A four-inch diameter solid rocket motor separates at an altitude of about 5,000 feet, after which an instrumented dart coasts "to apogee" (highest point).

Satellite Images and Data: Provided directly to the satellite terminal in the Range Weather Facility by the GOES weather satellites, and also high-resolution pictures from polar low-earth orbiting spacecraft including both the NOAA polar orbiters and the Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP) satellites.

Meteorological Interactive Data Display System (MIDDS): Integrates for the forecaster on a single visual display the satellite images, computer-generated graphics of surface and upper air map features, and current weather observations. The system will also display or plot and contour various meteorological parameters and can display any selected current National Weather Service radar picture.

Wind Towers: A total of 33 wind towers are located on Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, including two at each launch pad and three at the Shuttle Landing Facility. In addition to wind, most towers are instrumented with temperature sensors. The 60-foot wind towers at the launch pads and the 10-meter wind towers at the Shuttle Landing Facility are closely monitored for launch and landing criteria. In addition, on the mainland there is a network of 19 wind towers, which extend outward an additional twenty miles and are used as a tool in short-term forecasting.

Instrumented Weather Buoys: Anchored east-northeast of Cape Canaveral, two meteorological buoys are stationed at distances of 25 nautical miles and 110 nautical miles. Offshore weather conditions may influence onshore weather. These ocean weather buoys relay hourly reports by satellite, which are received at the Range Weather Facility. Measurements include air temperature, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, precipitation, sea water temperature, and the wave height with period. Click for more information on Offshore Weather Data

Solid Rocket Booster Retrieval Ships: These vessels radio observed weather conditions and sea state from the booster impact area located approximately 160 miles downrange.

Weather Reconnaissance Aircraft: A T-38 jet and the Shuttle Training Aircraft are flown by a weather support astronaut.

Note: The launch weather forecast is prepared by the U.S. Air Force Range Weather Facility at Cape Canaveral. The landing and Return to Launch Site Abort (RTLS) forecast is prepared by the NOAA Space Flight Meteorology Group at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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Kennedy Space Center news release for October 4, 1995.

What Students Will Need to Know
NASA Space Shuttle Launches

NASA weather instrumentation

Space Shuttle Weather Launch Commit Criteria

Contingency Landing Criteria

End-of-Mission Landing Weather Criteria

Online Weather Resources

Latest KSC Area Weather

Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC) Realtime Data

Penn State University Weather Pages

Current US Weather

The NOAA Weather Page


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Last updated November 10, 2004

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