Shuttle Landing Facility

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Shuttle Landing Facility
Shuttle Landing Facility.jpg
Airport type Private
Owner National Aeronautics & Space Administration
Location Merritt Island, Florida
Opened 1976
Built 1974
Elevation AMSL 10 ft / 3 m
Coordinates 28°36′54″N 80°41′40″W / 28.615°N 80.6945°W / 28.615; -80.6945Coordinates: 28°36′54″N 80°41′40″W / 28.615°N 80.6945°W / 28.615; -80.6945
Direction Length Surface
ft m
15/33 15,000 4,572 Concrete

The Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) (ICAO: KTTSFAA LID: TTS) is an airport located on Merritt Island in Brevard County, Florida, USA. It is a part of the John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC), and was used by NASA's Space Shuttle for landing until the program's end in 2011, as well as for takeoffs and landings for NASA training jets and civilian aircraft, such as the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.[1][2]

Starting in 2015, Space Florida manages and operates the facility under a 30 year lease from NASA. Private companies have been utilizing the SLF for its unique properties since 2011 and will continue to do so via Space Florida.[3]


The Mate-Demate Device at the Shuttle Landing Facility.

The Shuttle Landing Facility covers 500 acres (200 ha) and has a single runway, 15/33. It is one of the longest runways in the world, at 4,572 m (15,000 ft), and is 91.4 meters (300 ft) wide.[1] (Despite its length, astronaut Jack R. Lousma stated that he would have preferred the runway to be "half as wide and twice as long".[4]) Additionally, the SLF has 305 meters (1,000 ft) of paved overruns at each end. The Mate-Demate Device (MDD), for use when the shuttle was transported by the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, was located just off the runway.[1]

The runway is designated runway 15, or 33, depending on the direction of use. The runway surface consists of an extremely high-friction concrete strip designed to maximize the braking ability of the Space Shuttle at its high landing speed, with a paving thickness of 40.6 cm (16.0 in) at the center.[1] It uses a grooved design to provide drainage, and further increase the coefficient of friction.[1] The original groove design was found to actually provide too much friction for the rubber used in the Shuttle's tires, causing failures during several landings. This issue was resolved by grinding down the pavement, reducing the depth of the grooves significantly.

A local nickname for the runway is the "gator tanning facility", as some of the 4,000 alligators living at Kennedy Space Center regularly bask in the sun on the runway.[5]

The landing facility is managed by contractor EG&G, which provides air traffic control services as well as managing potential hazards to landing aircraft, such as bird life. The Bird Team kept the facility clear of both local and migratory birds during shuttle landings using pyrotechnics, blank rounds fired from shotguns and a series of 25 propane cannons arranged around the facility.[6]

Space Shuttle[edit]

Space Shuttle Atlantis landing after STS-122.
Space Shuttle Endeavour STS-127 landing video.

Columbia was the first shuttle to arrive at the SLF via the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft on March 24, 1979.[7]

The runway was first used by a space shuttle on 11 February 1984, when the STS-41-B mission returned to Earth. This also marked the first-ever landing of a spacecraft at its launch site. Prior to this, all shuttle landings were performed at Edwards Air Force Base in California (with the exception of STS-3, which landed at White Sands Space Harbor) while the landing facility continued testing and shuttle crews developed landing skills at White Sands and Edwards, where the margin for error is much greater than SLF and its water hazards.[8] On Sept. 22, 1993, Discovery was the first space shuttle to land at night at the SLF. A total of 78 shuttle missions landed at the SLF.[7]

The final landing of a space shuttle occurred on July 21, 2011 by the Atlantis for STS-135. Discovery and Endeavor took off from the SLF on top of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft for museums in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles.

Project Morpheus Testing[edit]

In 2012, NASA's Johnson Space Center's Project Morpheus's first vehicle arrived at KSC. Prior to arrival at KSC and throughout the project, Morpheus vehicle tests were performed at other NASA centers; KSC was the site for advanced testing. Multiple tests, including free flight, were performed at the SLF in 2013-2014. Multiple vehicles and iterations of the vehicles were tested, due to upgrades and damages during this experimental test program. During the August 9, 2012 test at the SLF, a vehicle exploded; no one was injured.

Commercial Use[edit]

The SLF has also been used by commercial users. Zero Gravity Corporation, which offers flights where passengers experience brief periods of microgravity, has operated from the SLF,[9] as have record-setting attempts by the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer.[10] NASCAR teams have also used the facility for vehicle testing.[11]

In 2012, Performance Power's Johnny Bohmer did set the Guinness World Record for the Fastest Standing Mile-Street Car when his Ford GT broke the 275 mph barrier, setting the record at 283 mph."[12] In 2014, the Hennessey Venom GT recorded a top speed of 270.49 mph (435.31 km/h).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e NASA (2007). "Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF)". NASA. Retrieved November 7, 2007. 
  2. ^ NASA (2007). "Shuttle Landing 101". NASA. Retrieved November 7, 2007. 
  3. ^ "NASA Signs Agreement with Space Florida to Operate Historic Landing Facility". NASA. June 22, 2015. Retrieved 5 November 2015. 
  4. ^ Lousma, Jack R. (2010-03-15). Jack R. Lousma Edited Oral History Transcript. Interview with Ross-Nazzal, Jennifer. NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project. Retrieved February 18, 2012. 
  5. ^ NASA (2008). "Alligators and Rocketships". NASA. 
  6. ^ Herridge, Linda (August 12, 2009). "Bird Team Clears Path for Space Shuttles". NASA. Retrieved 2009-08-13. 
  7. ^ a b "Kennedy History Quiz". NASA. Retrieved 5 November 2015. 
  8. ^ "Landing Sites". NASA. 
  10. ^ "Kennedy Hosts GlobalFlyer". NASA. 
  11. ^ "From Runway to Racetrack: NASCAR Team Tests at Kennedy". NASA. 
  12. ^

External links[edit]