Many of the techniques employed for rocket meteorology—“rocket-casting”—have been adapted from aviation. However, the unique characteristics and requirements of rocketry demand special meteorological procedures and instrumentation, which are only recently becoming satisfactorily defined.

The influence of weather parameters on operational rocketry is examined, with special emphasis on the Tanegashima Space Center, Japan. It is concluded that the fundamental requirement for efficient launch operations is a highly sophisticated nowcasting facility, backed by an effective research and development program.

On 13 August 1986, the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) launched from the Osaki rocket range in Tanegashima three payloads on the inaugural flight of the H-1 launch vehicle.

The launch weather was expected to be fine at the range. In the event, a thunderstorm commenced close to the launch area during the last few seconds before launch, which nevertheless proceeded successfully. This incident highlights the uncertainties of rocket operations, particularly in the critical area of the provision of reliable weather information and forecasts.

The synoptic conditions at the time of the 13 August launch incident are examined, and a qualitative forecast checklist is suggested to assist in forecasting similar summertime early-morning maritime storms in the future.

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Footnotes

+Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Office of Space Science and Applications (CSIRO OSSA), PO Box 3023, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia

*National Space Development Agency of Japan, 2-4-1 Hamamatsu-cho, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105 Japan.