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Launch Services Program Webcast: Swift
 
Weather Briefing

Tiffany Nail: Thank you, Mr. Kennedy. I'm your host, Tiffany Nail. Welcome to NASA's prelaunch webcast coverage of the Swift mission. Swift is a nimble spacecraft designed to accomplish a tricky task: catch a gamma-ray burst as it happens. We are live from Kennedy Space Center in Florida one day before launch.

As NASA prepares for the launch of Swift, we have a lot to talk about. Today we have Air Force weather officer Joel Tumbiolo, who will give us a launch weather update, NASA launch manager Omar Baez with an in-depth look at the Delta II launch vehicle, and NASA's launch director, Chuck Dovale, who will go through the final processing of Swift as it is prepared for liftoff. Plus, Chuck will answer some of your launch operations questions a little later in the show.

NASA's Swift spacecraft is about to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. As KSC Center Director Jim Kennedy mentioned, if the weather cooperates, Swift will take off at the opening of a one-hour window that starts at 12:09 p.m. eastern time on November 17. Delta Air Force weather officer Joel Tumbiolo is here now with a look at the launch day forecast. Hi, Joel. Thanks for being with us today.

Nail: Joel, could you tell us what kind of weather conditions are needed for a successful launch day?

Joel Tumbiolo: OK, our weather concerns are mainly, for any launch, are kind of in two or three areas. The first one will be lightning. This is the lightning capital of the United States. We are always looking for thunderstorms that could produce lightning, and if any lightning were to occur in the local area, that would prohibit a launch. Now, there are two types of lightning. There is what we call natural lightning, where thunderstorms naturally produce lightning on their own, or what we call triggered lightning, and that’s when the vehicle accelerates through a cloud and produces its own lightning strike.

So, we have a set of rules, about ten rules that take into account the threat for triggered lightning to be produced by the vehicle as it flies through the clouds. So, on launch day we are going to be measuring clouds, thicknesses of clouds, how big the clouds are, and things of that nature, to see the potential for these clouds to produce a lightning strike as the vehicle, again, flies through. Another area we'll be looking at is wind. Obviously, with the busy hurricane season that we've had, there's been a lot of wind in the area.

There's been a lot of wind in the area the last couple days. So, we also have ground wind constraints that we will be monitoring for any launch and for the launch tomorrow, per se, it's 26 knots. So, we are going to be looking for ground winds. So, lightning, wind and, in some cases, temperature, is also a player that we'll be looking at. So those are the three main areas.

Nail: OK. Well, how is launch day forecast shaping up for us right now?

Tumbiolo: Fortunately, tomorrow is looking really, really good. The weather, again, has been windy the last couple days, but the winds are, as of today, in fact will start to weaken and I think there will be very good conditions. Again, we have a 26-knot constraint for tomorrow's launch, but I’m only forecasting a launch, the winds at launch time to be around the 10- to 15-knot range. So, it's going to be well below their threshold. And the lightning that I mentioned earlier, we have no chance for any lightning or things of that nature.

Being November time frame, we're pretty much out of our thunderstorm season, so we're looking in pretty good shape there. And the winds will be, as I said, a lot weaker, so we're looking at a 90 percent chance of having good weather for tomorrow's launch. And actually, the next couple days after that look really good, as well.

Nail: Well, that's great to hear. Joel, good luck on launch day and thanks for stopping by to talk with us on NASA Direct!

Tumbiolo: Thank you very much for having me.

Nail: By the way, you can track tomorrow's launch and see Joel's up-to-the-minute weather reports live on NASA TV and through our online virtual control center. You can access the virtual launch control center from the Kennedy Space Center home page.