NASA relies on the Natural Environments (NE) Branch located at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) to provide databases that represent the wind magnitudes and wind changes expected on day-of-launch (DOL) for vehicle programs that MSFC NE supports. MSFC NE has traditionally utilized weather balloon measurements to generate the wind profiles used in DOL loads and trajectory simulations. However, balloon measurement archives have three limitations in that (1) they do not contain a large enough sample to adequately represent the wind environment at extreme percentiles, (2) balloons could misrepresent the aloft wind environment due to their rise rate and drift characteristics, and (3) the Space Shuttle Program’s operational requirements significantly drove the atmosphere databases’ development. To help mitigate these limitations, MSFC NE used the 50-MHz Doppler Radar Wind Profiler (DRWP) at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to validate balloon measurements on DOL during the SSP.

The 50-MHz DRWP (D50) provides measurements from near 2 to 18 km, which is adequate for assessment in the region of maximum dynamic pressure. However, the instrument does not measure winds below 2 km, which is another region of interest for flight vehicle assessments. The 915-MHz DRWP (D915) network consists of five D915s that contain data from near 0 to 2 km, which can be merged with a concurrent D50 measurement to create a single profile.

This innovation provides the capability of merging quality-controlled wind profile measurements from two DRWP systems, both existing at KSC, to create a single profile applicable to ascending launch vehicles.

This innovation’s functional operation consists of providing an archive of spliced DRWP profiles for NASA’s Space Launch System and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Programs to use in design, as well as for software supporting day-of-launch operations. For the latter, the software will be used to either create a vertically complete DRWP profile, or to display a complete profile for visual purposes.

The innovation provides the capability to produce a single wind profile that spans the range of multiple measurement systems. Advantages include the flight vehicle being able to use a complete DRWP profile for design and operations.

This work was done by Robert Barbre of Jacobs Engineering for Marshall Space Flight Center. For more information, contact Ronald C. Darty, Licensing Executive in the MSFC Technology Transfer Office, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Refer to MFS-33174-1.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2015 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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