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Weather from MARSS
Twin bolts of lightning strike the ground. When thunderstorms rumble in and lightning flashes you may have only seconds to get out of the way. For Kennedy Space Center, severe weather is double the trouble. With hundreds of workers and multi-million dollar hardware operating outside, NASA needs a system that can keep an eye to the sky and detect trouble before it arrives. To find an answer, the Center went to MARSS.

MARSS stands for Meteorological and Atmospheric Real-time Safety Support and is a stroke of computer genius forged in a partnership between Kennedy Space Center and ENSCO, Inc., of Springfield, VA.

Image to right: Twin bolts of lightning strike the ground. Credit: NASA

MARSS is an amazing computer system that produces vivid, real-time models of local weather. The system works by collecting data from a network of lightning, temperature, wind and other sensors scattered across the KSC complex. Scientists/workers process the information gathered by MARSS to create sophisticated computer screens that show details like storm motion, speed and lightning strikes. With this system, safety personnel can monitor dangerous weather and warn crews that may be working outside.

A MARSS screen simulating weather around Kennedy Space Center. MARSS can also be programmed to simulate the weather during launch operations. When a rocket launches, there's a huge plume of smoke and steam generated by the flaming engines. The system can factor in wind speed and direction to predict which way the plume will travel. This ability to foresee which way the cloud will go allows KSC to position personnel and equipment accordingly.

Image to left: MARSS powered-up and simulating weather around Kennedy Space Center. Credit: NASA

Outside of rocket launches, MARSS also has other incredibly valuable applications for keeping people and property safe. When Florida had a rampant wildfire outbreak in 1998, a MARSS system was installed at a fire response command post in Cocoa, Fla. Fire fighters used the system to alert them when lightning was threatening to ignite more fires and to predict what influence wind was having on already burning fires and smoke.

When severe weather approaches, you need to find out if the storm is heading your way. If you're in the yard, you look to the clouds and blowing trees. If you're at Kennedy Space Center, you look to MARSS.

Courtesy of the NASA Innovative Technology Transfer Partnerships Program
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center and Spinoff On-Line
Charlie Plain, KSC Staff Writer