Wind Forecasts for Rocket and Balloon Launches at the Esrange Space Center

SNIC 2018/3-82


SNAC Medium

Principal Investigator:

Javier Martin-Torres


Luleå tekniska universitet

Start Date:


End Date:


Primary Classification:

10508: Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences

Secondary Classification:

10503: Geosciences, Multidisciplinary



Located around 200 km north of the Arctic Circle, the Esrange Space Center (ESC) has been extensively used to launch high altitude balloons and rockets to study the dynamics of the upper-levels of the Earth’s atmosphere. According to the Esrange Safety Manual, the atmospheric conditions play an important role in the decision of whether a planned launch will actually take place. One of the most important factors considered is the wind, with strict requirements for the maximum allowed wind variation and speed for each vehicle. Hence, an accurate simulation of the atmospheric conditions in the Planetary Boundary Layer (PBL), in particular of the wind direction and speed, is crucial as erroneous forecasts may lead to costly postponement or cancellation of planned launched events. In the previous version of the project we have tested different configurations of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model to determine the one that gives the most skillful wind forecasts for use in subsequent simulations and checked whether the WRF wind forecasts can be used for go/no-go decisions for the most commonly launched vehicles at the ESC. The WRF horizontal wind forecasts were found to be useful for the two sounding rockets frequently launched at the site with a Probability of Detection (POD) always above 60% and a False Alarm Rate (FAR) generally below 50%. We are requesting an extension of this project to conduct a few more hindcast simulations and test the model performance in a real launch event.