The first all-female 45th Weather Squadron will watch over SpaceX’s Starlink launch Saturday
The first all-female 45th Weather Squadron on June 11, 2020. (Image credit: Amy Thompson/Space.com)
The first-ever all-female 45th Weather Squadron will be watching the weather for SpaceX’s upcoming Starlink launch.
This history-making team of six women — three military and three civilian launch weather officers — will be performing weather assessments and providing forecasts and advisory for the launch. The team, which is part of the U.S. Space Force and operates out of Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, will be making the go/no-go call for liftoff, depending on whether the weather is acceptable for launch.
The SpaceX mission that this historic team will work with aims to launch 58 of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites alongside three SkySat Earth-imaging satellites for the company Planet. This will be the first launch as part of SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program. SpaceX is currently targeting tomorrow (June 13) at 5:21 a.m. EDT (0921 GMT) for this launch.
Meteorologist Arlena Moses, the lead launch weather officer for SpaceX’s upcoming Starlink launch, currently scheduled for June 13, 2020. (Image credit: 45 Space Wing Photo)
The team is comprised of Maj. Emily Graves, the launch weather commander; Capt. Nancy Zimmerman, the launch weather director; Airman 1st Class Hannah Mulcahey, the duty forecaster; meteorologist Arlena Moses, the lead launch weather officer; meteorologist Melody Lovin, the reconnaissance launch weather officer; and NOAA meteorologist and flight director Jessica Williams, the radar launch weather officer.
So, why is this the first time that the squadron has been made up of all women? It’s the only time there have been enough women serving as launch weather officers to fill the entire team.
Airman 1st Class Hannah Mulcahey, the duty forecaster for the upcoming SpaceX Starlink launch, scheduled for June 13, 2020. (Image credit: 45 Space Wing Photo)
As Lovin explained during a media teleconference on Thursday (June 11), there was only one woman on the team from 2000 to 2018. But, when 2018 came along, a number of launch weather officers left and, additionally, the unit was to be expanded to keep up with the increasing number of launches. With these changes, they hired more women to the team. “We needed at least five [women] to make this happen and before 2018, we only had one and now we have six,” Lovin said.
But Zimmerman’s supervisor, who creates the team for each launch, didn’t create an all-female squadron on purpose. With the increased number of women as launch weather officers, “it was pretty much happenstance,” Zimmerman said.
As Zimmerman explained, the team checked to make sure that it hadn’t happened before, and it hadn’t. “I said, ‘heck yeah, let’s do it,'” she said.
This major “first” shows “how far we’ve come in the space industry, in the Air Force,” Zimmerman said. “We only had one female civilian launch weather officer in the 2000s, and now we have three civilian and we have even more military female members, so I just think it’s just a testament to how far we’ve come, and it’s so great to be a part of this team.”
“I look forward to not having to celebrate when we are on an all-female launch team,” Lovin added, “because that means it’s become so normal that we don’t have to celebrate anymore. It means we’ve normalized it and we’re not fighting the uphill battle.” She added that while gender stereotypes persist, “they’re just not true — they’re not based in anything other than fear.”
Moses added that as an African-American woman, “there’s a lot of stereotypes and preconceived notions about who you are and what you can do and what you’re capable of. Oftentimes, when you’re walking into the room, they’re not sure who I am and what I can do, and oftentimes, as a person of color, you have to work a little harder to show them that you can stand toe to toe with everyone else.”