1989-09-01

Real-Time Environmental Requirements for Space Shuttle Flight Operations 892270

Knowledge of the atmospheric environment and its impact on space shuttle launch and landing operations are essential real-time requirements for successful space shuttle flight operations. Seven basic atmospheric environmental elements, whose variations are known as weather, can be either measured or observed: pressure, temperature, humidity, winds, precipitation, visibility, and clouds. From the first three elements, a very important atmospheric element to aerospace flight can be computed: the density of air. Density and wind profiles are used to compute forces that affect the simulations of space shuttle launch and landing trajectories. This paper presents an overview of the current atmospheric environmental data collection systems and discusses how the data collected during prelaunch and prelanding activities is used to make real-time decisions. Limitations of one of these systems, balloon tracking used for wind data collection up to 30 km (100,000 ft) in altitude, are discussed. In addition, two proposed state-of-the-art systems, weather aircraft and wind profilers that can improve the collection of this wind data, are described.

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