Weather flight forecasts mission success

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Shane M. Phipps
  • 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
This is part two of a four part series on jobs critical to supporting launch operations.

The Air Force maintains many different installations around the world, with many different objectives. These installations are all comprised of various individuals working together to achieve mission success.

At VAFB a primary mission is achieving successful polar-orbital launches, which would not happen without dedicated personnel from various organizations, like the members of the 30th Operations Support Squadron's weather flight.

"Each category of rocket, missile and landing craft has its own tailored set of weather limitations," explained Maj. Erin Willingham, 30th OSS assistant director of operations. "The weather flight integrates customized forecasts into the planning phase prior to launch day."

Due to its potentially volatile nature, the weather is closely monitored during all phases of the launch process.

"The weather team closely forecasts and monitors atmospheric conditions to ensure all operations are performed within the safety and risk limitations of the vehicle, its equipment and the entire launch team," continued Willingham.

With launch vehicles being especially vulnerable to extremes, proper weather planning is essential to mission accomplishment.

"Many of the rockets and missiles are quite sensitive to certain weather conditions, particularly strong winds and lightning," said Capt. Jennifer G. Kelley, 30th OSS launch weather officer and assistant flight commander. When a vehicle's weather thresholds are exceeded, the result can be disastrous. Ensuring weather conditions are within parameters during launch mitigates risks and best provides for a successful launch."

Considering the high monetary value for launch materials, protection of such assets is a paramount priority for the Air Force.

"Essentially, we protect resources," explained Senior Airman Daniel Tartaglione, 30th OSS range weather forecaster. "We make sure none of the operations, personnel or equipment will be impacted by the weather and if an impact is expected, we provide warnings."

For OSS leadership, unity among the flight is essential to accomplishing all goals in an efficient and effective way.

"Teamwork is key," exclaimed Willingham. "We support launch operations through all phases, weather watches and warnings for the installation, airfield and aircrew support. Teamwork makes it all happen!"