National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce


Mercury Program Weather Support


NASA was formed on 29 July 1958.  Not long after, Project Mercury was announced with the goal of placing a man into space.  NASA determined that Project Mercury would require unique weather support and that the civilian Weather Bureau (the predecessor to the National Weather Service) should be the lead organization for providing this support.  The Weather Bureau established the Project Mercury Weather Support Group with 3 subordinate units to support the program.  The Cape Canaveral office provided support for pre-launch preparations, launch and recovery operations.  The Suitland Maryland office at the National Meteorological Center provided access to the Weather Bureaus communications and computer systems.  The Miami Florida office (co-located with the Hurricane Center) provide expertise for weather in the ocean recovery areas.  Air Weather Service and contract personnel at Patrick Air Force Base/Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Navy weather personnel on-board ships in the recovery areas provided assistance, primarily observations and upper atmosphere balloon measurements, to the Weather Bureau forecasters.


Mission Weather Summary

Mission Launch Date Launch Weather  Recovery Date
Recovery Weather
Freedom 7
May 5, 1961
9:34am EST 
SCT Low Clouds 

MR-3 Launch Image showing scatter cumulus clouds
MR-3 Launch Image showing clear skies above cumulus

May 5, 1961
9:49am EST 
75deg 53min West, 27deg 13.7min North  (15 min, 28 seconds)
Not Available
Liberty Bell 7 MR-4 July 21, 1961
7:20 a.m. EST
SCT-BKN Mid Clouds

MR-4 Launch Image with altocumulus and cirrus clouds

July 21, 1961
7:36 a.m. EST 
302 miles East of launch site
(15 min, 37 seconds )
SCT Low Clouds

MR-4 Recovery Image showing scatterd cumulus clouds

Friendship 7 MA-6 February 20, 1962
9:47:39 am EST
Clear skies

MA-6 Launch into clear skies

Broken stratocumulus during launch countdown

February 20, 1962
14:43:02 am EST. 
800 miles southeast of Bermuda 
(4 hours, 55 min, 23 seconds)
Not Available
Aurora 7 MA-7 May 24, 1962
7:45:16 EST
Vis: 1 mi FG and Smoke
Wind:  24008KTS
Temp/Dew:  77 F/73 F (RH 88%). 

MA-7 Launch - a bit hazy

May 24, 1962
12:41 p.m. EST. 
19deg 29min North 64deg 05min West
(4 hours, 56 min, 5 seconds)
Vis: 10mi
Wnd: xxx08KTS
Seas:  3-foot waves

MA-7 Recovery - 3ft Seas

Sigma 7 MA-8 October 3, 1962
7:15 a.m EST
MA-8 Launch: SCT Cumulus and Cirrus Clouds October 3, 1962
4:28 p.m EST
(9 hours, 13 min, 11 seconds)
2,000 broken, visibility 10 miles, 3 foot seas.

MA-8 Landing: A few whitecaps

Faith 7 MA-9  May 15, 1963
8:04:13 am EST
MA-9 Launch:  Maybe some high cirrocumulus May 16, 1963
6:04:02 p.m EST
(1 Day, 10 hours, 19 min, 49 seconds)
0.5 cloud coverage at 1500 feet, 5 to 6 foot waves, surface wind 15 knots from 085 degrees.  Tops about 36,000. 

MA-9 Landing:  A good view of the sea state

Significant Events

Total Number of Weather Related Scrubs and Delays:  7 Scrubs, 2 Delays.
4 of 6 (66%) Mission Launches Impacted by Weather. (Note that the counting of weather related scrubs and delays used here is similar to the current accounting in the Space Shuttle program in that delays prior to entering a launch count are not included.)

Freedom 7 MR-3:  First US Manned Flight (Shepherd)  (1 Scrub)
Delayed at T-15 due to low clouds obscuring the view of the launch area.  Visibility improved 20 to 45 minutes later.  Scrubbed for 1 day.  (Source:

Liberty Bell 7 MR-4:  Second US Manned Flight (Grissom)  (2 Scrubs, 1 Delay)
The launch was originally scheduled for July 18, 1961, but was rescheduled to July 19 due to unfavorable weather conditions.  The launch attempt of July 19, 1961 was cancelled at T-10 minutes due to continued unfavorable weather.  The launch was then scheduled for July 21, 1961.  Preparation proceeded normally through the 12 hour planned hold.  Weather evaluation at this time affirmed favorable launch conditions.  At T-180 minutes, a planned 1-hour hold was called for another weather evaluation.  Other holds occurred due to other problems.  At T-15 Minutes, a 41-minute hold was called to await better cloud conditions.  The launch count then proceeded normally (Source: Results of the Second U.S. Manned Suborbital Space Flight, NASA)

Friendship 7 MA-6: First US Manned Orbital Flight (Glenn) (4 Scrubs)
Of the 33 days on the pad, 7 days of weather delays.(Source: Results of First Manned Orbital Space Flight).  Pre-count was completed on 27 Jan 1962, but weather cancelled the launch count at T-13 minutes.  Pre-counts were again started on 13, 15, and 16 Feb but were scrubbed due to adverse weather.

Aurora 7 MA-7:  Second US Manned Orbital Flight (Carpenter) (1 Delay)
T-11min 15-minute hold for weather (launch area smoke and ground fog). Hold extended for additional 15 minutes for weather. Hold extended for additional l0 minutes for evaluation of atmospheric-refraction data. Hold extended for additional 5 minutes to complete refracto-meter data evaluation.  Although the ground visibility at liftoff was limited to one mile, the estimated camera coverage through 250,000 was predicted to be good at the time of launch(Source:  Postlaunch Memorandum Report for Mercury-Atlas No. 7, Part I Mission Analysis)

Sigma 7 MA-8:  Third US Manned Orbital Flight (Schirra)
Weather forecasts on the morning of October 2, 1962 indicated that Hurricane Daisy might be in position to cause unfavorable weather in area 3-1.  Therefore, recovery ships were relocated approximately 215 miles downrange At launch time, weather conditions were favorable in all planned Atlantic and Pacific recovery locations.  (MA8_tec.pdf, , available on the Mission Transcript Collection)

Faith 7 MA-9:  Fourth US Manned Orbital Flight (Carpenter)
No significant weather impacts were noted.

NASA SP-4201:  This New Ocean: A History of Project  Mercury
Results of the Second U.S. Manned Suborbital Space Flight, NASA.  Available on the Mission Transcript Collection
Results of the First U.S. Manned Orbital Space Flight, NASA.  Available on the Mission Transcript Collection
Postlaunch Memorandum Report for Mercury-Atlas No. 7, Part I Mission Analysis.
MA8_tec2.pdf,  available on the Mission Transcript Collection
MA9_tec.pdf, available on the Mission Transcript Collection

Go to Gemini or Apollo weather support history.