| Information Technology

A Decision Support Tool to Assess Upper-Level Winds for Space Launch

Faster, more reliable forecasts have been developed.

An Excel-based graphical user interface (GUI) was developed for the 45th Weather Squadron (45 WS) Launch Weather Officers (LWOs), allowing them to assess numerical weather prediction model forecasts of upper-level winds and compare the forecasts to observations from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station meteorological soundings and the Kennedy Space Center 50-MHz Doppler Radar Wind Profiler in support of space launch operations at the Eastern Range. The GUI allows the LWOs to first initialize the models by comparing the 0-hour model forecasts to the observations, and then to display model forecasts in 3-hour intervals from the current time through 12 hours.

The code, written in Excel Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) scripts, drives the GUI by automatically acquiring, downloading, and processing the observations and model forecast data, and then displaying the resulting output in text format in Excel spreadsheets and in graphic format as Excel charts. The output of the observational data provides the LWO with the observation type and location, date and time, height, and wind direction and speed.

The two main disadvantages for the LWOs prior to development of this GUI was that they could not overlay graphic profiles of the model forecasts and observations to easily and quickly assess the quality of the model forecasts, and they could not communicate their assessment and forecasts of upper level winds visually to the launch director.

The authors used Excel VBA to automate most aspects of the GUI to minimize user interaction. When the LWO opens the Excel file with the VBA macros, it automatically runs a VBA script that determines local time. When the LWO requests data from a forecast model or an observation, VBA scripts are run to access the appropriate files from the KSC Spaceport Weather Archive server. Once the data is downloaded, it is imported into Excel, reformatted in an easy-to-read textual format, and then displayed graphically as an Excel chart. On launch day, the LWO interacts with the Excel file as needed to assess the upper level winds situation, and will brief the launch director if requested.

This work was done by William Bauman and Mark Wheeler of ENSCO, Inc. for Kennedy Space Center. KSC-13757