KT Explains: How and why the earths weather can affect rocket launches to outer space

5 weather attributes that can affect a rocket launch, as shared by the UAE's Team Hope Probe.

By Sahim Salim

Published: Wed 15 Jul 2020, 9:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 16 Dec 2022, 12:05 PM

Unstable weather conditions in Japan have delayed the scheduled launch time of the UAE's Hope probe twice. The country has been reeling under devastating rains and flooding, with heavy rainstorms forecast to continue in southern and central Japan.

The Hope probe team on Wednesday revealed the weather attributes that can affect a rocket launch. These are:

-Lightning and thunderstorms




-Wind speeds.

Weather conditions play a central role in ensuring a safe rocket launch to space due to its impact on the upper atmosphere. Even though weather is monitored, the viability for a liftoff changes from day to day.

Omran Sharaf, project director of the Emirates Mars Mission, had on Tuesday explained the different factors that affect a rocket launch. "When a rocket launches, it goes through different layers in the atmosphere. It's not just about the rain and wind but also about cloud density and humidity and many different factors that we need to assess."

Why foul weather affects rocket launches

Weather is the only aspect that space mission teams can't control. Wind speeds that violate the launch criteria could potentially push rockets off-course, while freezing weather can jam instruments.

According to Nasa, lightning strikes could short-circuit the electronics, including guidance and navigation systems. The payload electronics - equipment and scientific experiments - could be adversely affected as well.

Source: Nasa

When are missions given a no-go?

Nasa had specified specific launch weather criteria for SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that carried the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Lightning and thunderstorms

It's a no-go if the launch site is:

> Within 10 nautical miles of the edge of a thunderstorm that is producing lightning within 30 minutes after the last lightning is observed.

> Within 10 nautical miles of a thunderstorm anvil cloud.

> Within 3 nautical miles of thunderstorm debris.

Temperature and clouds

It's a no-go if:

> The launch site is within 5 nautical miles of disturbed weather clouds that extend into freezing temperatures and contain moderate or greater precipitation

> The launch path is through a cloud layer thicker than 4,500 feet that extends into freezing temperatures.


It's a no-go if:

> The sustained wind at the 162-foot level of the launch pad exceeds 48kmph.

> If the flight path is through upper-level conditions containing wind shear that could lead to control problems for the launch vehicle.


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