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The Spaceflight Meteorology Group
Postflight Mission Summary for STS-96

June 21, 1999

.Discovery performs first shuttle docking to the International Space Station Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off on time May 27, 1999 at 1050 UTC and successfully docked with the International Space Station for the first time on May 29 at 0624 UTC. The only weather concern for the sunrise launch was the risk of fog developing and reducing the visibility below four miles at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF). Southwesterly low level winds and earlier rainfall west of KSC both increased the risk of fog development. However, wind speeds remained high enough to keep fog development confined to the ditches around the SLF. The only other launch issue was the detection of a sailboat in the Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) recovery area about forty minutes before launch. The boat was contacted and it was able to move out of the area prior to the T-minus 9 minute mark.

Discovery’s crew spent five days docked to the international space station. During that time the astronauts moved more than 4,500 pounds of equipment from the shuttle to the station. This included hardware and supplies intended for the station’s first resident crew. Also during the flight the crew deployed the Starshine satellite, currently being tracked by international student observers for use in deriving atmospheric density measurements.

For the landing on June 6 the forecast challenge was predicting development and location of weak showers offshore within 30 nautical miles of the SLF. Deep easterly flow had been forecast by all meteorological models to develop over Florida on landing day. Weak showers developing along convergence lines parallel to the flow often appear with this type of flow pattern over the Atlantic. Model forecasts were accurate as easterly flow up to 30 thousand feet had developed over central Florida prior to landing, and lines of weak showers were occurring over the Atlantic. Prior to the deorbit burn time these convergence bands of showers were located about 40 nautical miles north of the SLF, and also 30 nautical miles south, with a relative dry slot between the two. SMG’s forecast was amended to "GO" at 0415 UTC when the showers were forecast to remain out of the 30 nautical mile circle around the SLF.

Discovery touched down at the KSC Shuttle Landing Facility on June 6, 1997 at 0603 UTC. This was the nineteenth consecutive mission to end with a landing at the Kennedy Space Center and the eleventh night landing in the history of the shuttle program. The lead forecaster for STS-96 was Richard Lafosse. Assistant lead/TAL site forecaster was Tim Garner. The lead Techniques Development Unit meteorologist was Mark Keehn.

Submitted by:

Richard Lafosse STS-96 Lead Forecaster

Mission Trivia:
10th night landing.
17 KSC landings in a row.
6 on-time landings in a row.
25 KSC landings out of the past 30.
KSC landing total is now 46 which exceeds EDW total of 45. (WSSH = 1)
Only the 2nd KSC landing with Clear Skies reported. The other was STS-50.
Last KEDW landing was 3/31/96 (STS-76).



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