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For Release: September 15, 1994
Mark Hess/Ed Campion
RUNWAY RESURFACING STARTS FOLLOWING CV-990 TESTS
NASA has begun resurfacing the runway at the Kennedy Space Center, a move that will improve the wear on Shuttle tires and potentially lead to an expansion of the Return to Launch Site landing crosswind flight rule.
Raising crosswind limits from the current constraint of 15 knots would increase launch probabilities from the spaceport on Florida's Atlantic coast. A small increase could substantially reduce the days in which crosswinds are too high for orbiters to land back at the Shuttle runway at Kennedy if an emergency occurred immediately after launch.
The runway resurfacing also will improve safety for end of mission landings at KSC.
The resurfacing follows a series of successful tests with Space Shuttle tires and a new runway resurfacing technique using NASA's CV-990 Landing Systems Research Aircraft (LSRA).
"Shuttle launches involve complicated choreography," said Space Shuttle Operations Director Brewster Shaw. "This includes not only the conditions that apply to launching out of the atmosphere and into space, but also weather and winds at several locations around the world in case problems force us to make an immediate landing. By raising the Shuttle crosswind limits, something we have studied in a very conservative and methodical way, we can enhance our capability to launch on a given day."
The LSRA is highly modified to duplicate the landing weight, speed and side slip of the Space Shuttle. The converted jetliner carries a landing gear test fixture that can test orbiter tires at up to 140,000 lbs. of load. It was originally developed as a Space Shuttle landing systems testbed, but can be used to test a variety of aircraft landing systems. The LSRA was developed and is operated by NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif.
During the latest series of testing at Kennedy, the LSRA team studied three different runway surfaces to determine the best landing conditions for the orbiter. A resurfacing technique using a Skidabrader machine was chosen and the entire 15,000-foot runway at Kennedy will be resurfaced.
The runway surface treatment machine, which looks like an ice rink resurfacing vehicle, propels tiny steel shot onto the runway to pulverize the rough surface and create a much smoother finish.
These tests are part of a comprehensive effort by the Shuttle program to evaluate crosswind limits under which an orbiter can safely land. Tests with the CV-990 complement data which is being collected during actual Space Shuttle landing approaches. These data are being used to obtain a better understanding of orbiter handling characteristics at landing speeds in various crosswind conditions.
"If we can save the Shuttle program eight days of delay we will have paid for the entire LSRA program," said Christopher Nagy, chief CV-990 engineer. The cost to modify the aircraft into a test facility and operate it through this fiscal year was $12 million.
"The orbiter and all of its systems, with the exception of the tires, were designed and built to handle a 20-knot cross wind," said Robert Baron, CV-990 program manager. "During the tests to certify them up to 20 knots of crosswind, we hit tire loads of up to 140,000 lbs...way above their design limits...and they held up consistently beyond their rated capacities." According to Baron, no changes are required to the tires to increase their crosswind limits.
The CV-990 logged 26 flights during the most recent phase of testing at Kennedy, bringing the total to 101 flights since the aircraft was modified into a test facility. Along with improving orbiter landing capabilities, the CV-990 test team produced data to help update Space Shuttle simulators used by NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, and Rockwell International. The CV-990 project pilot is Gordon Fullerton, who flew on two Space Shuttle missions before leaving the astronaut corps in 1986 to become a research pilot at Dryden.
Although testing at the Kennedy Space Center is complete, additional flights are planned at Edwards to test Shuttle tires at low air pressures and on the lakebed. According to Baron, CV-990 project personnel are exploring possible programs with other government agencies to utilize the unique test and research capabilities of the aircraft. Participants in the Space Shuttle tire testing and CV-990 programs include the Johnson Space Center; Kennedy Space Center; the Landing Impact Dynamics Facility, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.; Landing Gear Development Facility, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; B.F. Goodrich Facility, Troy, Ohio; and Rockwell International's Space Transportation Systems Division, Downey, Calif.
Editors Note: Photographs of the CV-990 tests can be obtained by calling the Dryden Flight Research Center Public Affairs Office. The photo numbers are: EC92 05275-30, EC92 12221-1, EC92 12221-2, EC93 41018-5, EC93 41018-6, EC93 41018-18. These photos also are available via Internet by sending a message to ttp://ww.dfrf.NASA.gov/photo server/photo server/htl.
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