Breaking barriers; first all-female launch weather team on Eastern Range
By Senior Airman Zoe Thacker, 45th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 15, 2020
CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. --
It is no stretch to say that for over 75 years the Eastern Range has been breaking barriers -- working alongside mission partners to launch the first rocket with reusable boosters, the first mission for the U.S. Space Force, and providing support for the first manned launch mission from American soil since 2011.
For the 45th Space Wing, going above and beyond in the launch business does not stop there. The Falcon 9 Starlink L-8 mission was overseen on June 13, 2020, by an all-female weather team from the 45th Weather Squadron, for the first time in history on the Eastern Range.
Maj. Emily Graves, Capt. Nancy Zimmerman, Airman 1st Class Hannah Mulcahey, Jessica Williams, Arlena Moses and Melody Lovin served as the team of meteorology professionals assigned to work the launch of 60 satellites that added to the Starlink internet constellation. But it wasn’t because of gender that the women were chosen; it was because of their credentials.
“The team wasn’t selected because we were all-female,” said Zimmerman, 45th Weather Squadron launch weather director. “This group was chosen because of their outstanding credentials. All of our civilian ladies on the team are from the National Weather Service, so they come with a great amount of forecasting knowledge and ability.”
Favorable weather conditions on launch day can be tricky, temperamental and time sensitive. Upper-level wind conditions, precipitation, cloud cover and lightning are just a few of the areas that must be factored in before giving a ‘go’ for launch.
“Every three minutes a radar scan will come into our system and my job as the launch radar weather officer is to monitor each of those,” said Williams. “What I’m monitoring for is the altitude and depth of clouds because that tells us if we’re ‘go’ or ‘no-go’ for our launch commit criteria weather rules.”
Though gender was not a factor when making up the team; the excitement of an all-female weather team is not lost on the women who comprise it.
“I’m very excited for the team and I think the cool factor is through the roof,” said Moses, lead launch weather officer. “The fact we’ve come so far as to have enough females in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) from diverse backgrounds that we can have six of us working together for something as important as a rocket launch is great.”
I hope it inspires more girls to get out there and find whatever their passion is, especially in the math and science fields, continued Moses.
Whether monitoring the radars, ensuring favorable launch conditions or checking for reconnaissance conditions for rocket boosters landing back on Earth after a launch; this powerful team of women get the job done for the 45th Space Wing, our mission partners and our Nation.