‘Safety is the utmost importance to launch’: 45th Weather Squadron monitors forecast ahead of historic manned launch

Video: 45th Weather Squadron monitors forecast ahead of historic manned launch

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Many eyes are turning to the Space Coast and to the forecast as the historic manned launch is set to happen this weekend.

“It’s a very surreal experience and I’m extremely grateful to be part of this big moment in history,” Capt. Jason Fontenot said. “We’re very excited and very proud of what we’re doing. We’re doing the exact same thing we do for every launch. We make sure that safety is the utmost importance to launch. We want to make sure that the rocket gets up there to orbit safely and also the public on the ground is safe as well from any event that may occur.”

Fontenot and his team at the 45th Weather Squadron monitor and track the weather to make sure NASA and its launch mission partners have safe access to air and space.

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There are 10 rules that the squadron evaluates for each launch, and it all comes down to lightning.

All rockets, manned or not, need to avoid natural lightning or what is called rocket triggered lightning.

“The big defining moment of what caused these rules to come about was the Atlas Centaur-67 launch back in 1987,” Fontenot said. “Basically, it was a rocket that was launched into a very electrified environment. That created a lightning strike. Destroyed the onboard guidance system, so it started veering off course and we had to actually blow up the rocket to abort the payload.”

It was a very real consequence of launching during bad weather.

Saturday’s weather concerns look very similar to Wednesday, with rain and clouds near the launchpad.

Many are still hopeful that the rocket will launch from the Space Coast over the weekend.