Space Shuttle

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Space Shuttle - Langley
Space Shuttle

Center: Langley Research Center
Location: Hampton, Virginia
Year Built:
Historic Eligibility:
Important Tests:


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On March 27, 1979 President Jimmy Carter sent a message to Congress reiterating elements of his space policy. His message, entitled "Expanding the Beneficial Use of Space", included the following.

"With the advent of the Space Shuttle, we are entering a new era. The Space Shuttle-our national space transportation system for the coming decades-will increase the flexibility of space operations, reduce costs, improve national security, and make possible new cooperative activities with other nations."


Contents

[top] Fact Sheet

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Building on its strong tradition of research into the performance of winged flying vehicles as well as pioneering work on hypersonic gliders, the X-15 rocket plane, and other types of "space planes," Langley made vital contributions to NASA's Space Shuttle program. In fact, Langley:

  • Contributed to the technology base for a reusable space vehicle and developed preliminary Shuttle designs
  • Recommended modified delta wing for vehicle rather than conventional straight wing
Shuttle Carrier
  • Conducted wind tunnel tests (60,000 wind tunnel hours) and analysis; over one-half of the Aerodynamic Design Data Book came from Langley wind tunnel test results
  • Conducted structures and materials tests to determine the requirements for various areas of the vehicle
  • Investigated and certified the Thermal Protection System for launch environment


  • Performed independent design, analyses and simulation studies to solve problems on the Orbiter flight control and guidance systems
  • Conducted landing tests on Shuttle main and nose gear tires and brake systems
  • Conducted runway surface texture tests and recommended Kennedy runway modifications
  • Participated in the redesign of solid rocket booster components
  • Examined launch abort and crew bailout capabilities
  • Defined ascent aerodynamic wing loads

[top] History

STS-26

Over the past four decades, NASA Langley has made significant contributions to the development and operation of the Space Shuttle Program (SSP). Building on LaRC's research in the performance of winged flying vehicles as well as pioneering work on hypersonic gliders, the X-15 rocket plane (America's first hypersonic trans-atmosphere vehicle), and other types of 'space planes,' NASA LaRC has payed an important role in the success of the SSP. Research in direct support of the SSP started in 1969 and continued through the end of the program. The SSP drew on a multitude of capabilities already in place at NASA Langley Research Center.

Langley was the premier Space Center and played a leading role in Space Programs such as Mercury and Apollo, but the researchers' roles have often been overlooked. Tom Yager acknowledged Sidney Batterson as one of the "...dreamers who made the original test track ( ALDF) design a one-of-a-kind facility." Batterson's work at the NACA Impact Basin and Landing Loads Facility paved the way for research that was integral to the Space Shuttle Program. The carriage, catapulting system, and arresting gear at the Landing Loads Track resembled the designs from the Impact Basin.

Although Shuttle-related research occurred across the Center, the Aircraft Landing Dynamics Facility is the only facility identified as providing a unique capability within NASA as an agency. Beginning operation in 1956, the track was modified in 1985 and a new carriage built to test speeds comparable to those anticipated for the Shuttle. This facility provided the test environment for Shuttle landing gear both under normal and emergency conditions, tire development, optimum runway texture, braking gear, and landing safety.

The thermal protection system of the orbiter was tested in the 8-Foot Transonic Pressure Tunnel. These tests were to ensure that the tiles would remain in place during the Shuttle's reentry. After the Columbia incident, the effects of tiles coming loose were evaluated in the Langley Aerothermodynamics Lab.

Langley's involvement with the Space Shuttle does not end with the improvements to the vehicle, but continues through using the vehicle as transportation into orbit or as a testbed for Langley-developed experiments, such as the Orbiter Experiments, the Assembly Concept for Construction of Erectable Space Structures (ACCESS), the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF), and the Crew Equipment Translation Aid (CETA).

[top] Associated Facilities

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Aerothermodynamic Flight Simulation

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Aerothermodynamic Experimental Methods


The following 14 facilities were identified in 2006 as being associated with the Space Shuttle Program:

Testing on reentry vehicles began in the early 1960s. In the 1970s, tests performed at the facility supported the development of the Space Shuttle Orbiter, wing design and configuration details. Additional space testing at the facility has included a hypersonic research vehicle, space personnel transports, a reusable launch vehicle, and a crew return vehicle.


From 1969 60 1986, this facility performed aerodynamics tests of various Shuttle designs and the Shuttle Orbiter.


Following the Challenger accident in 1986 (see President Reagan's Speech), the tunnel was used to support stability and control tests during Shuttle deceleration and landing. These tests analyzed possible Shuttle egress methods and the trajectory an astronaut would take when leaving the Orbiter in the atmosphere. The effect of crew-model exit velocity, body posture, and body weight were studied with egress from the Orbiter main side hatch and from the upper cabin hatch.


Between 1972 and 1978, this tunnel was used for Space Shuttle research including tests of ground wind loads, flutter tests and parachute tests.


This facility supported testing for reusable launch vehicles, the Hyper-X, and the Space Shuttle. In the late 1970s and early 80s, the tunnel was used to test the Shuttle Orbiter model for aerodynamic characteristics and late entry Reaction Control System yaw jet effects.


In 1977, subsonic forced-oscillation tests of the Space Shuttle Orbiter and the 747 ferry vehicle configuration were conducted.


Occasional wind tunnel tests of the Space Shuttle were performed at this facility between 1971 and 1995 including low speed tests of the Orbiter in approach and landing, and crosswind landing envelope.


In 1982, a Space Shuttle model was tested to analyze and correlate with vehicle flight-test data and in 1985, aerodynamic testing of Space Shuttle and booster configuration was conducted.


A considerable number of Space Shuttle tests were conducted in this facility from 1969 through 1986 including aerodynamic tests on Shuttle and Orbiter designs,and solid rocket booster and heat transfer research.


In the mid 70s, testing at this facility supporting the Shuttle Program included thermal and structural performance of surface insulation tiles, and aerothermal testing on the Orbiter. In 1988 the tunnel was upgraded to accommodate the air-breathing hypersonic propulsion systems and structural and thermal protection system components. A radiant heater system was used to simulate ascent or reentry heating profiles.


Since the Columbia accident in 2003, this facility has been used to test the threshold of impact damage to various thermal protection systems of the Space Shuttle Orbiter.


In the 1980s and early 1990s, the ALDF was used to test Shuttle tire performance, tire failure wheel tests, and the effect of various runway conditions. It was the only facility in the country that could provide tire braking and cornering friction data required for the Shuttle testing program.


This labs have supported most of NASA's major hypersonic vehicle programs over the years including the Apollo, Viking, and Space Shuttle programs. The facilities supported the early Shuttle development in the 1970s as well as later tests including the Return to Flight efforts in the early 2000s. All of the models during the development of the Space Shuttle shape were tested in the 22-Inch Helium Tunnel. Since 2004, the Mach 6 and Mach 10 tunnels have been used to study the effects of cavities and protuberances on the hypersonic boundary layer transition of the windward surface of the Shuttle Orbiter.

[top] Shuttle Astronauts Visit Langley

Shuttle astronauts visited NASA Langley and while at the V/STOL Tunnel (1212C), they autographed this photo of the Shuttle model. Most of the group signed the photo, some of which were later on the Challenger STS 51-L. The following signatures link to short biographies.


Shuttle Astronaut Signatures.jpg
photo provided by Peter Toth


Bean, Alan
Bluford, Guion S. Jr.
Brandenstein, Daniel C.
Buchli, James F.
Creighton, John O.
Fabian, John M.
Fisher, Anna L.
Gibson, Robert L. “Hoot”

Gregory, Frederick D.
Griggs, S. David
Hart, Terry J.
Hauck, Frederick H. “Rick”
Hawley, Steven A.
Hoffman, Jeffrey A.
Lucid, Shannon W.
McBride, Jon A.

McNair, Ronald E.
Mullane, Richard M. “Mike”
Nagel, Steven R.
Nelson, George D.
Onizuka, Ellison S.
Resnik, Judith A.
Ride, Sally K.
Scobee, Francis R. “Dick”

Seddon, Margaret Rhea
Shaw, Brewster H. Jr.
Stewart,Robert L.
Sullivan, Kathryn D.
Thagard, Norman E.
van Hoften, James D. A. “Ox”
Walker, David M.
Williams, Donald E.


[top] Flights

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STS-1

John W. Young and Robert L. Crippen

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STS-5

L-R:Joseph Allen, Vance Brand, Robert Overmyer, William Lenoir

Press Kit, October 1982


AIRCRAFT CONTROL PLAN ANNEX B (PART 1)

AIRCRAFT CONTROL PLAN ANNEX B (PART 2)

AIRCRAFT REPORT SUMMARY SHEET

CESSNA 402 OPERATIONAL DATA

CHRONOLOGICAL SUMMARY LAUNCH DAY

ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS

OPERATIONAL FLIGHT PROFILE (VOL 1)

OPERATIONAL REPORT (CESSNA 402 OP DATA EDIT)

OPERATIONAL REPORT (WITH NOTES)

PRELIMINARY OPERATIONAL REPORT

QUICK LOOK REPORT

TDL-424 LORAN NAVIGATOR OPERATOR'S MANUAL

[top] Posters and Displays

Shuttle Return to Flight2011 Presentation with Bill Woods2011 with Bill Woods

[top] Plume Analysis

1982-11-02 402 Shuttle effluent experiment set-up1982-11-02 402 Shuttle effluent experiment set-up1982-11-02 402 Shuttle effluent experiment set-up1982-11-02 402 Shuttle effluent experiment set-up1982-11-02 402 Shuttle effluent experiment set-up1982-11-02 402 Shuttle effluent experiment set-up1982-11-02 402 Shuttle effluent experiment set-up1982-11-02 402 Shuttle effluent experiment set-up1982-11-02 402 Shuttle effluent experiment set-up1982-11-02 402 Shuttle effluent experiment set-up1983-03-21 STS-5 exhaust flight

[top] Model Tests

Many of the models were built on-site in the West Model Shop.


April 1978 in 16-Foot Transonic Tunnel

May 1978 in 16-Foot Transonic Tunnel

October 1979 in 16-Foot Transonic Tunnel

Testing at Landing Loads


[top] Interviews

Angela Mason: YouTube Interview, ALDF work in Structural Dynamics Branch


David Piatak: Several of us in the Aeroelasticity Branch lead by John W. Edwards worked on efforts to remove foam ramps from the external tank of the shuttle stack in the wake of loss of Columbia due to foam strike. We worked this effort at a moderate priority level as part of the Shuttle's (2nd) return to flight. However, during Discovery's Return to Flight mission (Wikipedia) a large piece of foam from the LH2 protuberance air load (PAL) ramp was seen to separate and fall away (luckily, did not strike orbiter). This event triggered our group to a VERY high priority level and the next flight was flown (and every flight since) without PAL ramps on LH2 and O2 feedlines on ET. Report: Aeroelastic Response and Protection of Space Shuttle External Tank Cable Trays


Bill Woods: YouTube Interview, William C. Woods, a Distinguished Research Associate, discusses the evolution of the Space Shuttle shape. Using actual models tested in the Mach 10 at the Unitary Tunnel Facility, Bill shows the various configurations proposed and how the final design evolved.


Tom Horvath YouTube Interview Thomas Horvath discusses his work at NASA Langley with a focus on research in aerothermodynamics in building 1251 and the importance of this research to the Space Shuttle.

[top] Films

[top] Langley Research Center

HL-10 and HL-20 (lifting body concept leading to Shuttle Design)

Candidate Space Shuttle Orbiters M=20 Electron Beam Flow Studies

McDonnell-Douglas Aircraft Space Shuttle Concepts

1980 Space Shuttle Overview

Ditching of the Space Shuttle Orbiter

1985: Study of Factors Affecting Crew

1995 Group 15 Visits Langley

NASA LaRC Assists in Columbia

2005: Langley Contributions to Shuttle's Return to Flight Part 1

Langley Contributions to Shuttle's Return to Flight Part 2

Langley Contributions to Shuttle's Return to Flight Part 3

U.S. Space Foundation Safety Grooving

1994: Shuttle Landing Facility Runway Modification Project

Access Shuttle Flight Experiment

Brain Stew Episode with Tom Yager

[top] Other Centers

Thermal Protection System for Space (Johnson)

1983: Astronaut Dr. Norman Thagard in Training (Johnson)

1983: Astronaut Dale Gardner in Training (Johnson)

1983: George Nelson in Training (Johnson)

Robert Springer in 11-Foot Chamber Training (Johnson)

1987: Astronaut Lounge Completing EMU Walk Through (Johnson)

1987: Astronaut Candidates Experiencing High Altitude (Johnson)

1988: Astronauts in High Altitude Chamber (Johnson)

2009: Final Shuttle Main Engine Test (Stennis)

STS 131 Assembly. Time-lapse video that captures the process of getting the shuttle ready for launch beginning 22 February 2010 and ending 5 April 2010.

[top] Documents

Space Shuttle: The Routine Space Machine. Rockwell International. Space model information.

Space Shuttle Columbia: Ready for Mission


[top] Press Kits

STS-1, April 1981

STS-50, June 1992

STS-108, November 2001


[top] Memorandum

Shuttle Activities Memo, Sept 20-24, 1971

Minutes: Dynamic Testing Committee, Sept 21-22, 1971

Minutes: Ad Hoc Dynamic Testing Committee Organizational Meeting, Sept 28, 1971

Langley Programs Relevant to Dynamic Testing, 18 Oct. 1971

Minutes: Ad Hoc Working Group on Dynamic Testing, Nov 26, 1971

Minutes: Ad Hoc Dynamic Test Working Group, Jan 18-19, 1972


[top] Studies

Champine, Gloria R. 1981. Langley's Space Shuttle Technology - A Bibliography. A listing of all reports and conference papers giving a total history of Langley research and contributions. NASA-TM-78651

1982 Simulation of Time-varying Ascent Loads on Arrays of Shuttle Times in a Large Transonic Tunnel (Building 640)

Space Shuttle Plume Analysis by George Maddrea


[top] Further Reading

Becker, John V. 1983. The Development of Winged Reentry Vehicles.

Champine, Gloria. 2008. interview

Daugherty, Robert H. and Thomas J. Yager. 1997. Texture Modification of the Shuttle Landing Facility Runway at Kennedy Space Center

Hodges, Jim. ASK Magazine. Issue 40, November 2010. Shaping the Shuttle.

Mirebs, Ralph. Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar But Whats Inside Caught Him By Surprise. Design You Trust.

NASA. 1981. NASA Facts: The Shuttle Era.

Williamson, Ray A. Developing the Space Shuttle

[top] Distinguished Researchers

Ayers, Floyd N.: Langley Special Achievement Award 1981 for "the design and fabrication of a precision control system for load test on space shuttle insulation tiles.

Berry, Robert F., Hughes, John T., Stoops, W. Edward, Jr.: Langley Special Achievement Award 1981 for "exceptional dedication and technical support of Shuttle TPS studies."

Bobbitt, Percy J. NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal 1981 "In recognition of his outstanding efforts in the aerodynamics and aerothermal certification of NASA's Space Shuttle for first flight, including participation in critical Agency review committees and the conception and execution of the Combined Loads Tests on Orbiter Tiles."

Brown, Ronald D.: Langley Special Achievement Award 1981 for "sustained dedication and excellence in support of critical tests of Shuttle TPS in Aerothermal Loads Branch arc facilities."

'Burcher, Linwood G.:'Langley Special Achievement Award 1980 for "exceptional service in the manufacture of the Shuttle Cone Model."

Burtner, W. Cecil and Charles R. Lewis: Langley Special Achievement Award 1980 for "high quality workmanship and dedication in support of Space Shuttle insulation tile bonding tests."

Compton, Harold R.: Langley Special Achievement Award 1980 for "contributions to the development of a Langley program to analyze shuttle flight aerodynamic data."

Cooper, Paul A.: NASA Exceptional Service Medal 1981 :For outstanding leadership of a research team in structural mechanics studies of the Ceramic Thermal Protection System resulting in new understanding of the system behavior and technical data vital to first flight certification."

Crossley, Edward A. Jr.: Langley Special Achievement Award 1981 for "consistent superior application of technical skills and dedication in the performance of design tasks on the LHS Project and special Space Shuttle test fixture designs."

Dunavant, James C.: NASA Exceptional Service Medal 1981 "For outstanding contributions to the development of Shuttle Orbiter aerodynamic heating prediction techniques both as an individual researcher and as a leader and member of national-level Shuttle Working Groups."

Goetz, Robert C. NASA Exceptional Service Medal 1981 "For outstanding contributions to shuttle technology and for direction of a broad range of analytical and experimental TPS certification efforts for STS-1."

Gowdey, Joe C.: Langley Special Achievement Award 1981 for "exceptional performance in instrumentation layout and unsteady data analysis for the Combined Loads Orbiter Test (CLOT) and for rapid resolution of a compressor problem in the Langley 8 Ft. Transonic Pressure Tunnel."

Hedgepath, Robert K.: Langley Special Achievement Award 1981 for "conscientious and dedicated service to the Space Shuttle/Combined Loads Orbiter Test (CLOT)."

Holloway, Paul F.: Presidential Rank of Meritorious Service 1981 for sustained accomplishments in Federal service. Cited for expertise in hypersonic aerodynamics that identified heating problems in evaluation of Space Shuttle concepts. NASA Exceptional Service Medal 1981 "In recognition of significant contributions to the conceptual design of the Space Shuttle, the flight certification of the Thermal Protection System, the establishment of the vehicle's aerodynamic characteristics, and characterization of the flight control system which enable a successful first flight of the Space Shuttle."

Hughes, John T., III: Langley Special Achievement Award 1980 for "outstanding performance and contribution to technical development of Shuttle tiles studies and the Active Controls Laminar Flow Model."

Ivey, George W., Jr.: Langley Special Achievement Award 1981 for "exceptional performance as a member of the NASA Baseline TPS Team in leading the development of analytical models for Shuttle tile loads."

Leadbetter, Sumner A.: Langley Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal 1981 "For recognizing the benefits and developing the technology of scaled-model dynamic testing and applying this technology to understanding the Space Shuttle structural dynamics behavior."

Little, Bruce D.: Langley Special Achievement Award 1981 for "excellence in the development of a hot melt adhesive pad used with the Work Restraint Unit for Shuttle's Surface Attachment Assembly."

Love, Eugene S. NASA Exceptional Service Medal1981 'For outstanding leadership in definition of the shuttle design and systems characteristics during its formative stages and for major contributions to the technological base which made the successful flight of STS-1 possible."

McCarty, John L. NASA Exceptional Service Medal 1981 "For outstanding leadership in supporting the development of the landing and deceleration system and critical mechanisms."

'Mayo, Robert F.:'Langley Special Achievement Award 1981 for "sustained excellence in the leadership and coordination of critical tests of Shuttle TPS in Aerothermal Loads Branch arc facilities."

Muraca, Ralph J.: NASA Exceptional Service Medal 1981, "In recognition of his outstanding achievements in the structural assessment of the critical elements of the Space Shuttle Orbiter's Thermal Protection System for STS-1, clearing the system for flight."

Petley, Dennis H.: Langley Special Achievement Award 1981 for "exceptional performance as a member of the NASA Baseline TPS Team in development of loads for Shuttle TPS analysis."

Phillips, William H.: President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service in ceremony on January 22, 1979. "His achievements include theoretical and practical contributions to World War II aircraft and spacecraft, jet and supersonic aircraft, and spaceflight from its early stages through the Space Shuttle era." ( Researcher. Vol 18, Issue 2.). NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal 1981, "For exceptional engineering achievement in the advocacy, development, and implementation of a superior flight control capability, which was successfully demonstrated on the first flight of the Space Shuttle." Phillips retired in February 1979 with more than 38 years of service.

Progar, Donald J. Langley Special Achievement Award 1981 for "excellent performance in development of a hot-melt adhesive Work Restraint System for Space Shuttle."

Rau, Timothy R.: Langley Special Achievement Award 1981 for "outstanding performance and contributions as on-site engineer for the IPAD project and in use of IPAD technology to support NASA shuttle time investigations."

Rumler, Donald R. NASA Exceptional Service Medal 1981 "In recognition of his exceptional technical contributions to the success of the STS-1 mission which included resolution of key materials issues, novel testing and analysis of simulated TPS models, and critical assessments of the overall TPS performance."

Sawyer, James W.: Langley Special Achievement Award 1981 for "providing critical, timely data on static and cyclic structural behavior of Shuttle TPS."

Shearer, Richard L.: Langley Special Achievement Award 1981 for "exceptional dedication and expertise applied to achieving the successful completion of a complex analysis of the Shuttle tiles stress loads in support of the first Shuttle flight."

Shore, Charles P.: Langley Special Achievement Award 1981 for "outstanding performance in performing analysis in support of Shuttle PTS teams."

Smith, Dewey M.: Langley Special Achievement Award 1981 for "exceptional performance as a member of the NASA Baseline TPS Team in development of loads for Shuttle TPS analysis."

Spencer, Bernard, Jr.: NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal 1981 "For outstanding individual contributions and direction to the aerodynamic/configuration development of the Space Shuttle Orbiter leading to successful accomplishment of the Nation's first reusable space transportation system."

Tulinius, Jan R.: Langley Special Achievement Award 1981 for "sustained superior performance in evaluation of steady and unsteady aerodynamic loads on thousands of Space Shuttle surface insulation tiles."

Vallas, Maria: Langley Special Achievement Award 1981 for "superior performance and dedication in providing program coding, checkout, and execution support to the Langley nonlinear Shuttle TPS analysis development and for support developing a computerized data base to facilitate the analysis of larger arrays of tiles on the Space Shuttle Orbiter Vehicle."

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