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Tropical Weather Moving Closer to Texas and Florida

Harvey's remnant is forecast to regain tropical cyclone strength in the next day or two. Once Harvey starts impacting the Texas coast, up to 10 inches of rain will be possible over the next week. Another disturbance on the southern tip of Florida is not expected to strengthen, but it's slow movement could add up to 7 inches of rain over the next week. Heavy rain may produce flash flooding. Read More >

Frequently Asked Questions

 

1. Who is the Spaceflight Meteorology Group: how many, what background, what organization?

The Spaceflight Meteorology Group consists of 1 NOAA / National Weather Service meteorologist at the present time.  Staff numbers increase and decrease with NASA manned space program requirements.   A small increase in staff in anticipated in the future to support the NASA Orion and NASA Commercial Crew Programs.  SMG meteorologists have at least a B.S. in meteorology and typically have M.S. degrees in meteorology or related fields. SMG Lead Forecasters typically have at least 10 years of forecasting experience before being hired as an SMG forecaster.

SMG is contracted by NASA to support the manned spaceflight program and operates on a "reimbursable" agreement between NASA and NOAA/NWS.

In addition, a small group of CSOC software and electrical engineers provide support to SMG's Meteorological Interactive Data Display System (MIDDS).

2. Who provides operational weather analysis and forecasts to the space program?

Two organizations provide most of the operational weather support to NASA manned space programs:

SMG is an integral part of the Flight Control Team in the Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The JSC Flight Director leads the flight control team and is responsible for all operational decisions regarding NASA orbital flight and crewed landings. The Flight Director has immediate, direct interface with SMG forecasters who monitor weather conditions at all the possible landing sites. On occasion SMG forecasters will provide meteorologic advice for Earth observation photography and other experiments.

Flight Directors and Flight Control Team members work directly with SMG meteorologists between missions to evaluate and revise weather Flight Rules, receive in-depth weather training, participate in Shuttle landing simulations, review launch and landing times based on climatology, and resolve weather questions and issues concerning all Shuttle landing sites.

The USAF 45th Weather Squadron (45WS) forecasts for crewed AND unmanned rocket launches from KSC and Cape Canaveral. They provide daily weather support for launch processing operations at KSC, provide toxic dispersion weather support, and provide spacecraft transport support back to KSC or the USAF Eastern Range. The 45WS evaluates Launch Commit Criteria (LCC) and supports the KSC Launch Director.  Despite the different set of rules and customer requirements, there is a tremendous amount of pre-launch coordination between SMG and 45WS forecasters concerning weather in the KSC area.

 

Other Department of Defense organizations provide weather observation support to the NASA manned space programs. Notably, the USAF 412OSS at Edwards AFB, the White Sands Missile Range Meteorology Branch, and various units assigned to the Department of Defense Manned Spaceflight all provide surface weather observations, upper air measurements, and other support at landing or splashdown sites all around the world.

3. How can SMG forecast the weather for worldwide landing sites from Houston?

SMG accesses, decodes, and displays a tremendous amount of data for the crewed spacecraft landing sites. This includes a full suite of digital model output from the National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), mesoscale network data, worldwide surface and upper air observations, NWS and military text data, and high-resolution weather satellite imagery from GOES-East, GOES-West, METEOSAT-7, and GMS. Many of these datasets are integrated and displayed via the NWS Advanced Weather Information Processing System (AWIPS) and the JSC Meteorological Interactive Data Display System (MIDDS). SMG receives a full suite of WSR-88D radar products.   During launch and landing countdowns, SMG has hot-line access to landing site observers, and can direct the flight paths of weather reconnaissance aircraft flown by astronauts deployed to landing sites.

4. What does SMG do between missions?

 

  • Weather training for flight controllers and astronauts
  • Meteorological and computer training/professional development
  • Participate in NASA flight control Simulations
  • Computer systems management
  • Document past missions
  • Resolve issues from past missions
  • Prepare for future missions
  • Climatology studies
  • Technology transfer
  • Technique development
  • Weather flight rule inputs and evaluations
  • Support various NASA panels and working groups
  • Pilot weather briefings for astronauts
  • Local weather advisories for JSC and Ellington Field
  • Coordinate work of contract software engineers and hardware technicians
  • Coordinate/collaborate with the NASA Applied Meteorology Unit (AMU)
  • Coordinate landing site instrumentation upgrades
5. What kind of weather is hazardous to a crewed spacecraft when landing?

Many kinds of weather can be hazardous to a landing spacecraft. Thunderstorms, rain, hail, high winds, turbulence, low clouds, fog, and other weather can pose problems for the vehicle.

Thunderstorms may contain extreme turbulence and wind shears that could structurally damage the spacecraft. Natural or triggered lightning could disrupt flight avionics or damage the structure. Precipitation such as rain can damage the thermal protection system when flown through at high speeds, interfere with navigation and communication systems or impact parachute performance for capsules.  Winds at the surface and aloft affect the trajectory of the vehicle.  In addition, for splashdowns ocean wave properties impact the landing as well as recovery force abilities.  This is only a short discussion of the landing weather hazards.

6.  Are you hiring?

Working at SMG and providing decision support services to NASA is exciting.  If staff openings occur the position will be advertised at www.usajobs.gov and competition will be strong.