Shuttle Landing Facility
Shuttle Landing Facility
|Owner||National Aeronautics & Space Administration|
|Location||Merritt Island, Florida|
|Elevation AMSL||10 ft / 3 m|
The Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) (IATA: QQS, ICAO: KTTS, FAA 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. It was also used for takeoffs and landings for NASA training jets such as the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and for civilian aircraft.
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 Launch Florida.
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. (Despite its length, astronaut Jack R. Lousma stated that he would have preferred the runway to be "half as wide and twice as long".) 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.
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. It uses a grooved design to provide drainage and further increase the coefficient of friction. 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.
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.
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 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. On September 22, 1993, Discovery was the first Space Shuttle to land at night at the SLF. A total of 78 Space Shuttle missions landed at the SLF.
The final landing of a Space Shuttle occurred on July 21, 2011 by Atlantis for STS-135. Discovery and Endeavour took off from the SLF on top of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft for museums in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles.
Project Morpheus testing
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.
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, as have record-setting attempts by the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer. NASCAR teams have also used the facility for vehicle testing.
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 (443 km/h) barrier, setting the record at 283 mph (455 km/h).
In 2014, the Hennessey Venom GT recorded a top speed of 270.49 mph (435.31 km/h).
- NASA (2007). "Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF)". NASA. Retrieved November 7, 2007.
- NASA (2007). "Shuttle Landing 101". NASA. Retrieved November 7, 2007.
- "NASA Signs Agreement with Space Florida to Operate Historic Landing Facility". NASA. June 22, 2015. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
- Lousma, Jack R. (2010-03-15). "Jack R. Lousma Edited Oral History Transcript". NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project (Interview). Interviewed by Ross-Nazzal, Jennifer. Retrieved February 18, 2012.
- NASA (2008). "Alligators and Rocketships". NASA. Archived from the original on 2009-05-12.
- Herridge, Linda (August 12, 2009). "Bird Team Clears Path for Space Shuttles". NASA. Retrieved 2009-08-13.
- "Kennedy History Quiz". NASA. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
- "Landing Sites". NASA.
- "NASA HOSTS ZERO-G FLIGHTS AT SPACE SHUTTLE LANDING FACILITY". NASA.
- "Kennedy Hosts GlobalFlyer". NASA.
- "From Runway to Racetrack: NASCAR Team Tests at Kennedy". NASA.
- "Performance Power LLC".
Media related to Shuttle Landing Facility at Wikimedia Commons
- Shuttle Landing Facility - NASA.gov fact sheet
- Space Shuttle Era: Landing Sites - NASA video on YouTube
- Resources for this airport: