Space shuttle launches and landings at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) are subject to strict weather-related launch commit criteria and landing weather flight rules. Complex launch commit criteria and end-of-mission landing weather flight rules demand very accurate forecasts and nowcasts (short-term forecasts of less than 2 h) of cloud, wind, visibility, precipitation, turbulence, and thunderstorms prior to shuttle launches and landings.
The challenges to the National Weather Service Spaceflight Meteorology Group forecasters at Johnson Space Center to nowcast and forecast for space shuttle landings and evaluate the landing weather flight rules are discussed. This paper focuses on the forecasts and nowcasts required for a normal end-of-mission and three scenarios for abort landings of a space shuttle at KSC. Specific weather requirements for a potential emergency landing are the dominant cause of weather-related delays to space shuttle launches. Some examples of meteorological techniques and technologies in support of space shuttle landing operations are reviewed. Research to improve nowcasting convective activity in the Cape Canaveral vicinity is discussed, and the particular forecast problem associated with landing a space shuttle during easterly flow regimes is addressed.
*Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina.
+Department of Meteorology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii.