SUBMITTED BY ARTHUR N1ORC - AMSAT A/C #31468
LANDING COVERAGE NASA's Landing Blog - Mission STS-116
*NASA's landing blog will begin live coverage at 2 p.m. EST on Dec. 22, 2006. *
*Did you know? * Unlike space shuttle launches for which a "go" for liftoff can be given within minutes of changing weather conditions during the launch window, the landing site must be chosen more than an hour before touchdown, when the deorbit burn takes place. A switch in sites usually can be made up to 90 minutes prior to landing.
The orbiter touches down on the surface of the Shuttle Landing Facility at a speed of 213 to 226 mph.
Its initial landing approach is a glide slope of 20 degrees, more than six times steeper than the 3-degree slope of a typical commercial jet airliner as it approaches landing.
*The Shuttle Landing Facility* At 15,000 feet long and 300 feet wide, the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center is larger than most commercial runways. For comparison, consider this: the longest runway at Los Angeles International Airport is 12,091 feet long and 150 feet wide -- 2,909 feet shorter and 150 feet narrower than the Shuttle Landing Facility. Although it is used by military and civilian cargo carriers, astronaut T-38 trainers, shuttle training aircraft and helicopters, the facility was specifically designed for end-of-mission shuttle orbiter landings.
The Shuttle Landing Facility consists of a single landing strip that is considered two runways, depending on approach. If approaching from the northwest, landing will be on Runway 15; from the southeast, landing will be on Runway 33.
With more than 330 native and migratory bird species at Kennedy, birds present a special hazard to landing orbiters. Selective grass-cutting, pyrotechnic and noise-making devices may be used to discourage birds around the facility.
When the space shuttle clears the launch tower moments after liftoff, control is officially handed from Kennedy to Johnson Space Center in Houston, which maintains control of on-orbit activities and landing operations. Orbiter responsibility is handed from Johnson back to Kennedy after vehicle cool-down and crew departure, typically about an hour after touchdown.
Immediately following landing, 20 to 30 specially-designed Kennedy vehicles and units report to the runway. Their activities include safing the orbiter, assisting in crew departure and towing the vehicle to processing facilities.