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U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Visits Spaceflight Meteorology Group at Johnson Space Center

Secretary Sampson seated in the Crew Compartment Trainer at the NASA Space Vehicle mock up Facility (Photo: James Blair, JSC)

(April 23, 2007) - In Houston for a speaking engagement last month, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce, Dr. David A. Sampson took some time to visit the National Weather Service Spaceflight Meteorology Group (SMG) at the Johnson Spaceflight Center (JSC) in Houston.

Secretary Sampson toured the Spaceflight Meteorology Group operations area and met with the staff. He was given a demonstration of the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System and the Meteorological Integrated Data Display System. He was also briefed on the group's perspective of the weather "problem of the day" for shuttle landing sites around the world.

When it comes to evaluating launch day weather, SMG Director Frank Brody explained there are two sets of rules involved. One set is called the Launch Commit Criteria, monitored by weather experts, Air Force officials and launch controllers at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. The other set, the flight rules for an abort landing, are monitored by SMG and JSC flight controllers in Houston. Their responsibility is to make sure conditions would be safe -- if the Shuttle had to make an emergency landing. This involves watching weather conditions not only at KSC, but also at possible landing sites in New Mexico, California, Spain and France.

NASA's next space shuttle mission (STS-117) is scheduled for lift off in June. Its six member crew will fly Space Shuttle Atlantis for an 11 day mission to deliver two additional truss segments to the International Space Station. Just as it was in all previous shuttle flights, the exact launch date and time will depend on the weather at KSC and at the potential abort landing sites. "Basically, you just can't launch -- unless you can land," Brody said.

Secretary Sampson was sworn in as the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Commerce Department in July 2005. As the Department's chief operating officer, he manages a multi-billion dollar budget and nearly 40,000 employees in 13 operating units - including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Weather Service.

MIC Frank Brody (far right) explains SMG operations to DOC Deputy Secretary Dr. David A. Sampson (far left), Executive Assistant Barron Bell and Chief of Staff Aimee Strudwick (Photo: James Blair, JSC)

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