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Mark Hess/Ed Campion

Headquarters, Washington, D.C. July 18, 1990
(Phone: 202/453-8536)

Don Haley
Ames-Dryden Flight Research Facility, Edwards, Calif.
(Phone: 805/258-8381)

Kyle Herring
Johnson Space Center, Houston
(Phone: 713/483-5111)

RELEASE: 90-100


Tests of a drag parachute system to improve the landing
capabilities of Space Shuttle orbiters are expected to begin
later this month at NASA's Ames-Dryden Flight Research Facility,
Edwards, Calif.

The tests are part of NASA's continuing program to upgrade
operational capabilities and flight safety of the Space Shuttle

Drag chutes are specially designed parachutes deployed from
the aft end of an aircraft or aerospace vehicle to supplement the
normal system of brakes and help slow the vehicle's speed after
it has landed on a runway. Drag chutes on the orbiters will
permit them to land safely in a shorter distance and also help
reduce tire and brake wear.

The drag chute tests will be conducted on the same B-52 that
Ames-Dryden uses as a "mothership" to take manned and unmanned
aircraft to altitudes of up to 40,000 feet where they are
air-launched and their research flights begin.
The orbiter drag chute is four feet smaller in diameter than
the normal B-52 chute. For these tests, a modified orbiter drag
chute compartment has been mounted on the B-52. This results in
a difference in the load path of the parachute loads on the
aircraft. To handle the new loads, NASA has strengthened the
tail section of the B-52 where the drag chute deployment system
is located.

Instrumentation will record loads at various locations in
the attachment system and aft-facing cameras will film the
deployment of the drag chute during the tests. Data obtained
from the tests will be used to validate predicted loads for an
operational orbiter.

Eight landing tests with the orbiter chute system are
planned at Ames-Dryden with chute deployment at speeds ranging
from 140 to 200 knots (160 to 230 mph). Orbiter landing speeds
range from 180 to 225 knots (210 to 260 mph).

The B-52 is restricted to a top landing speed of 200 knots
in the tests because of tire limitations.

Endeavour, the orbiter being built by Rockwell
International, Palmdale, Calif., is expected to become the first
Space Shuttle with a built-in drag chute deployment system when
it is rolled out of the assembly plant next year. The system
will be installed on the three orbiters now in use -- Discovery,
Atlantis and Columbia -- as part of the program to continually
upgrade and improve the reusable spacecraft.

Piloting the B-52 during the tests will be C. Gordon
Fullerton, a former astronaut who flew on two Space Shuttle
missions. Fullerton, now a research pilot at Ames-Dryden, was
also a member of the NASA flight crews that carried out the Space
Shuttle approach and landing tests at Ames-Dryden in 1977 with
the prototype orbiter Enterprise.

The NASA B-52 test aircraft, built in 1952, is the oldest
B-52 in flying status and also the oldest research aircraft flown
by NASA. It was used as the launch aircraft on most of the X-15
research flights in the 1960s and lifting body missions in the
1970s and early 1980s. It was most recently the launch aircraft
for the first successful test of the commercially developed
Pegasus air-launched space booster.
The orbiter drag chute test program is managed by NASA's
Johnson Space Center, Houston. Also participating in the program
are Rockwell International, which designed the orbiter drag chute
system; Irvin Industries, Santa Ana, Calif., which designed the
parachute; and the Boeing Airplane Co., Seattle, which designed
the modifications to the B-52 test aircraft.

- end -

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1615 L Street, N.W. - Suite 100
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DATE & TIME: JULY 18, 1990

ORDERED BY: Edward Campion
NASA Headquarters/LMD
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20546 PHONE: 202/453-8400

PROJECT TITLE: Release No: 90-100


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