lanning for each Space Shuttle mission includesprovisions for an unscheduled landing at contin-gency landing sites in the U.S. and overseas.Several unscheduled landing scenarios are possible,ranging from adverse weather conditions at the primaryand secondary landing sites to mechanical problemsduring the ascent and mission phases that would requireemergency return of the orbiter and its crew. The Trans-oceanic Abort Landing (TAL) is one mode of an unsched-uled landing. The orbiter would have to make an unsched-uled landing if one or more of its three main enginesfailed during ascent into orbit, or if a failure of a major orbiter system, such as the cooling or cabin pressurizationsystems, precluded satisfactory continuation of themission.Several unscheduled landing scenarios are possiblewith abort modes available that include: Return to LaunchSite (RTLS); East Coast Abort Landing (ECAL) Site;Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL); Abort Once Around(AOA); and Abort to Orbit (ATO). The abort mode woulddepend on when in the ascent phase an abort becamenecessary.The TAL abort mode was developed to improve theoptions available if failure occurred after the last opportu-nity for a safe Return To Launch Site (RTLS) or EastCoast Abort Landing (ECAL), but before the Abort OnceAround (AOA) option became available. A TAL would bedeclared between roughly T+2:30 minutes (liftoff plus 2minutes, 30 seconds) and Main Engine Cutoff (MECO),about T+8:30 minutes into flight, with the exact timedepending on the payload and mission profile.A TAL would be made at one of four designated sites,two in Africa and two in Spain: Ben Guerir Air Base,Morocco; Banjul International Airport, The Gambia;Zaragoza Air Base, Spain, and Moron Air Base, Spain.Each TAL site is covered by a separate internationalagreement. The TAL sites are referred to as augmentedsites because they are equipped with Shuttle-uniquelanding aids and are staffed with NASA, contractor andDepartment of Defense personnel during a launch andcontingency landing.Space Shuttles are launched eastward over theAtlantic Ocean from KSC for insertion into equatorialorbits. Depending on mission requirements, an orbiter follows an orbital insertion inclination between 28.5degrees (low) and 57.0 degrees (high) to the equator. Thelower inclination launch allows for a higher maximumpayload weight.High or low inclination launches require differentcontingency landing sites, with three of the four landingsites staffed to ensure there is acceptable weather for asafe landing at a TAL site.During a TAL abort, the orbiter continues on a trajec-tory across the Atlantic to a predetermined runway at oneof the TAL sites. The four sites NASA has designated asTAL sites have been chosen in part because they are near the nominal ascent ground track of the orbiter, whichwould allow the most efficient use of main engine propel-lant and cross-range steering capability.
Ben Guerir, Morocco
The Ben Guerir Air Base in Morocco is used for allinclination launches as a weather alternate TAL sitebecause of its geographic location and its landing supportfacilities. Ben Guerir replaced Casablanca, Morocco,which was last used as a contingency landing site inJanuary 1986. Ben Guerir was designated as a TAL sitein September of the same year.Morocco is located along the northwest coast of Africa, between 27 degrees and 37 degrees north. It isshielded from the Sahara desert of northern Africa by theAtlas Mountains on the eastern border of the country. Acool ocean current runs along the west coast, similar tothe situation in southern California, which makes thecoastal areas subject to low clouds and fog most of theyear. The interior sections of the country are generallyarid with most precipitation occurring from November toApril and concentrated in the north.Ben Guerir Air Base is located on a flat, rocky, desertplain about 36 miles north of Marrakech and is a former Strategic Air Command Base abandoned in 1962. It hasone runway, oriented in a north-south direction, which is200 feet (61 meters) wide with 25-foot (8-meter) shoul-ders, and is equipped with Shuttle-unique landing aidsallowing for landings in both directions. Runway 18 is12,720 feet (3,877 meters) long with a 1,000-foot (305-meter) underrun/overrun, while Runway 36, which is theprimary runway, is 13,720 feet long (4,182 meters) with a1,000-foot (305-meter) underrun and a 2,500-foot (762-meter) compacted dirt overrun for a total of 15,720 feet(4,792 meters).NASA completed a construction project in 1988 thatrejuvenated the runway, added Shuttle-unique visuallanding aids and a Microwave Landing System (MLS), aTactical Air Control and Navigation (TACAN) system, tworemote weather towers, and put in place utility andpersonnel transport vehicles, four fire trucks, and twoambulances. An operations and storage building was alsoconstructed along with a tower to house the satellitecommunications systems and other antennas. A major project is in work to apply a sealer to the asphalt surfaceof the runway to help preserve and protect the surface.Communications include three INMARSAT satellitecircuits and Moroccan commercial telephone lines.Internet capability is available through a local InternetService Provider (ISP).
Banjul, The Gambia
Banjul International Airport (formerly Yundum Airport)is normally the primary TAL site for 28.5-degree (low)inclination launches because of its in-plane location. Itwas selected in September 1987, replacing a TAL site atDakar, Senegal, that NASA concluded was unsatisfactorydue to runway deficiencies and geographic hazards.The Republic of The Gambia is a former BritishColony that gained independence in February 1965. TheGambia, the oldest English-speaking country in WestAfrica, is surrounded on all sides except its seaboard by