Science and Technology News

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Countdown to Endeavour: How to Move a Solid Rocket Booster Segment

By Carla Voorhees

Kathy Winters is an Air Force Civilian Meteorologist at the 45th Weather Squadron at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. She is the Space Shuttle Launch Weather Officer providing weather support to the Space Shuttle Program at Kennedy Space Center as the Launch Team prepares for the 29 April 2011 launch of Endeavour. You can find out more about the 45th Space Wing at their Facebook page.

Example of a segment move photo from the Kennedy Space Center Multimedia Web Site - http://go.usa.gov/TJC

On April 13, 2011, we had our last Solid Rocket Booster “segment move” for the final Shuttle mission launching in June. The solid fuel segments arrive on rail from the ATK solid rocket booster plant in Promontory, Utah, to the Rotation Processing Surge Facility at Kennedy Space Center, just north of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). The segments are then transported to the VAB for stacking.

The transport to the VAB requires no more than a 25% chance of lightning during the hour it takes to move the segment. Luckily, the weather was favorable that morning, and the team completed the transport successfully.

This operation is an example of how the 45th Weather Squadron provides time and location-specific forecasts. During the summertime thunderstorm season, breaking down the forecast into hourly increments is imperative to providing the team with a safe window of opportunity to complete the operation.

The 45th Weather Squadron provides the forecast, and the Shuttle team determines whether the operation is a “Go” or “No-Go” given their specific weather constraints.

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