Shuttle Landing Facility
Aerial view of Shuttle Landing Facility in 2012
|Location||Merritt Island, Florida|
|Occupants||Kennedy Space Center|
|Elevation AMSL||10 ft / 3 m|
Location of airport in Florida
The Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) (IATA: QQS, ICAO: KTTS, FAA LID: TTS) is an airport located on Merritt Island in Brevard County, Florida, United States. It is a part of the Kennedy Space Center and was used by Space Shuttle for landing until July 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 (2,000,000 m2) and has a single runway, 15/33. It is one of the longest runways in the world, at 15,000 feet (4,600 m), and is 300 feet (91 m) 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 1,001 feet (305 m) 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 southern end of 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 16.0 inches (40.6 cm) 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 to land a Space Shuttle on February 11, 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 on STS-51. 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.
In January 2014 it was announced that Boeing would lease the Orbiter Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center to enable the U.S. Air Force to efficiently land, recover, refurbish, and re-launch the X-37B uncrewed spacecraft.
In October 2014, NASA signed agreement for the use of the facility, and Boeing upgraded the OPF-1 for the X-37B program.
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).
Media related to Shuttle Landing Facility at Wikimedia Commons