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STS-113 Sets Record for Landing Weather Delay Days

Endeavour completed the 112th mission of the Space Shuttle program when it touched down at the NASA Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida on December 7, 2002. Weather plagued both the launch and landing of Endeavour as the second launch attempt was scrubbed due to bad weather at the Spanish Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) sites for only the fourth time in Space Shuttle history. The landing was delayed three days, setting a Space Shuttle record.

The first launch attempt on the evening of November 10, 2002 was cancelled a few hours prior to launch time because of problems with the crew's oxygen system. Weather would have been problematic as well since precipitation and fog at the Spanish abort landing sites were observed at the potential TAL times. Skies were clear at KSC and no weather flight rule violations were noted.

The second launch attempt was postponed because of bad weather at the TAL sites as a pesky upper level storm system brought clouds and precipitation to Spain. Both Zaragoza and Moron observed Space Shuttle weather flight rule violations on the evening of November 22. As mentioned previously, this was the fourth time that a Space Shuttle launch had been cancelled by TAL weather alone. The other missions cancelled by TAL weather as the sole cause were STS-61C, STS-74, and STS-101. Again, weather at the KSC launch site was good.

The third time proved to be a charm for Endeavour on November 23, 2002 at it lifted off from pad 39A at 1850 CST (24/0050 UTC) on its mission to rendezvous with the International Space Station. Only a few clouds were visible in the sky at launch and at the potential Return-to-Launch-Site (RTLS) abort landing time.

The first attempt at landing at KSC were thwarted on December 4 by low cloud ceilings which developed just prior to the first de-orbit opportunity. Clouds lingered on through the first potential landing time and the second de-orbit opportunity.

On December 5 showers and thunderstorms moved within thirty miles of KSC on the first landing time violating weather flight rules. Thunder, rain, and cloud ceilings were observed on the day's final landing opportunity either at or within 30 miles of the Shuttle Landing Facility. NASA mission controllers decided by mid-morning not to attempt much of the de-orbit preparations necessary for landing so Endeavour remained in orbit another day.

A cold front passed through KSC on the night of December 5/6 bringing very low clouds and fog in its wake for landing attempts on Friday December 6. Both landing attempts were socked in with low clouds with bases at times below 1000 feet. Although Endeavour could have remained in orbit through the 8th, NASA mission managers decided to land at either Edwards AFB or KSC on Saturday December 7 if weather permitted.

Endeavour landed on the fourth day of trying at 1937 UTC December 7, 2002 with only a few clouds in the sky at the Kennedy Space Center. Variable in direction, but generally northeast, winds gusted to near the crosswind limit prior to and after de-orbit burn. The average crosswind observed at landing time was 7 knots. Endeavour's commander Jim Weatherbee reported no crosswind issues with the landing.

The STS-113 mission lead was Tim Garner. Assistant/TAL site forecasters were Dan Bellue and Richard Lafosse. Brian Hoeth completed his first mission as the prime techniques development meteorologist for the flight.

The next Space Shuttle mission will be STS-107 scheduled for a mid-January launch.

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Page last modified: 1 May 2003