Countdown To Endeavour: Launch Day Has Arrived!

Kathy Winters is an Air Force Civilian Meteorologist at the 45th Weather Squadron at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. She is the Space Shuttle Launch Weather Officer providing weather support to the Space Shuttle Program at Kennedy Space Center as the Launch Team prepares for the 29 April 2011 launch of Endeavour. You can find out more about the 45th Space Wing at their Facebook page.

Update (12:54 pm EDT): We’ve received word that NASA has scrubbed today’s launch attempt, saying “Shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach has scrubbed today’s STS-134 launch attempt because of an issue associated with Auxiliary Power Unit 1 heaters. There will be at least a 48-hour scrub turnaround while engineers assess the issue. NASA Television will air a news conference later this afternoon.”

[Editor's note - You can watch the countdown and liftoff of Endeavour live on NASA TV; liftoff is scheduled for 3:47 EDT today, Friday 29 April 2011]

Launch Day is finally here, and it’s time to see all of the team’s hard work pay-off. Hopefully the weather will cooperate! We have a standard team of meteorologists working the launch.

Todd McNamara and Kathy Winters discuss the Field Mill rule and cloud cover with the Launch Weather Team

Todd McNamara, right, and Kathy Winters discuss the Field Mill rule and cloud cover with the Launch Weather Team

First, our Launch Weather Officer on the tanking shift will come in around midnight and provide information to the team in preparation for tanking. About 45 minutes before tanking Friday morning, he will provide the final tanking weather briefing which will also include a launch forecast. With this information as well as information from other Shuttle team members concerning the vehicle status, the Shuttle managers will decide whether to press on to tanking. The rest of the Launch Weather Team will arrive Friday morning and begin monitoring the weather and evaluating Launch Commit Criteria (PDF). Each team member has a particular role, which helps us monitor our many different weather systems as well as manage all the different activities going on, including the weather information flow from the Transoceanic Abort Landing sites to Johnson Space Center.

We also have personnel from Computer Science Raytheon monitoring our weather equipment, reporting issues and repairing equipment if necessary. The Applied Meteorology Unit, a team of meteorologists here that helps transition research to operations, has a team member at all launches to assist as well. Finally, a member of the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) weather office is also on our team to assist with questions concerning KSC weather equipment or other KSC related items.

Here are a few photos from the last launch to give you an idea of what it’s like here at the 45th Weather Squadron on launch day. Wish us luck!

Todd McNamara, Dave Craft, and Capt Jeff Smith discuss weather Launch Commit Criteria based upon weather radar information.

L to R: Capt. Jeff Smith, Todd McNamara (center) and Dave Craft discuss weather Launch Commit Criteria based upon weather radar information.

Range Weather Operations during the STS-133 countdown

Range Weather Operations during the STS-133 countdown

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About Carla Voorhees

Carla Voorhees has always been interested in science, from the time she grew string beans under varying conditions for the science fair (3rd grade) to the time she took every math and science class she could during high school. As her path during college and beyond took her somewhat away from the hard sciences, she is thrilled to be a part of the Armed With Science team. Carla holds a B.S. in Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2007), and an M.B.A. in Design Strategy from the California College of the Arts (2010). She works as a Web Strategist at DOD Public Web.
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