Saturday, February 24, 2007

A really cool video of the Space Shuttle Mission STS-116, landing on Dec 22, 2006.

The last couple of minutes are the most interesting to me - you can see the heads-up display that the shuttle pilot is using. On the left side, you see airspeed, and on the right side you see altitude, measured in thousands of feet. Watch how fast the altitude unwinds; I count about 1,000 feet descent every 6 seconds, which works out to 10,000 fpm in the descent. The shuttle doesn't have jet engines, so on re-entry it is a glider with no chance of a go-around if the pilot screws up the approach.

4 comments:

Aluwings said...

Watching the re-entry in the days when that sort of thing was actually broadcast, I realized that from the de-orbit burn at around 400,000 feet to touchdown takes about the same length of time it takes our airliners/bizjets to descend to land from about 35,000 feet. Whoo heee.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy the final where it looks like a 300 kt dive to the middle marker and then flare to bleed off speed. Whoa!

Now THAT would be an, um, embarrassing time to have a gear up landing. Maybe that's what the chase plane is really for... I think I need to get me one.

Soaring Student said...

The glide angle on landing varies between 18 and 22 degrees nose down - basically it flies (glides) like a brick.

And the Commander and Pilot both need their glider pilot's license.

The automation is almost total... the computers can do everything to land the unit except lower the landing gear (and speed brake? parachute?). The designers didn't want a computer glitch or bug to lower the gear at the wrong time (e.g. on-orbit), because once lowered they cannot be raised, and then you lose the craft. And so the wires don't exist to connect the computers to the gear-down switch. Recently a re-design was effected where a patch cable can be plugged between here&there so the shuttle computers can complete the full landing unmanned (including gear deployment) if the fligth controllers decide to land a damaged unit unmanned - if it can get to ground the computers can then deploy the landing gear.

Anonymous said...

How to practice your shuttle landings (or how to make a GII really fun to fly):
wikipedia article