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July 18, 1990
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 SPACE SHUTTLE DRAG CHUTE TESTS SET TO BEGIN AT AMES-DRYDEN 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 fleet. 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.
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TO: MDS/PRA Group 1615 L Street, N.W. - Suite 100 Washington, D.C. 20036 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 PRINT ORDER: 2287 PRINTING: Camera Ready, lst pg on NASA logo, other pages plain ENCLOSE & MAIL: Release of 2 pages MAIL DATE: JULY 19, 1990 EXTRA COPIES: Deliver specified quanities to locations below:
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