NASA's now-retired Convair 990 rolls out after landing on the dry lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base during its use as a Landing Systems Research Aircraft for the space shuttle program in 1995. (NASA photo) › View Larger Image
A retired first-generation jetliner that once served as a highly modified research platform for NASA will be featured at the Mojave Air and Space Port's monthly "Plane Crazy Saturday" event on June 15 in Mojave, Calif.
Now relegated to being a "gate guard" at the southern entrance to the Mojave facility, the Convair 990 is one of the last surviving jetliners of its type. It was flown by NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., for medium altitude atmospheric research and later by NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to test tires and braking systems for the space shuttles.
John Carter, currently director of the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Dryden, will outline the history of the aircraft during a presentation scheduled for 11 a.m. in the Mojave Air and Space Port's boardroom. As seating is limited, tickets for Carter's presentation will be available at the MTM Promotions booth on the airport flight line.
The space shuttle landing gear test unit is visible between the two main landing gear components on the former NASA CV-990, modified as a Landing Systems Research Aircraft. (NASA Photo)
› View Larger Image In its last use prior to its retirement and transfer to the Mojave Airport in late 1996, the former NASA CV-990 was extensively modified for use as a Landing Systems Research Aircraft (LSRA) to test tires, landing gear and braking systems for the space shuttles to determine the performance parameters and failure limits of the tires. Carrying NASA tail number 810, the CV-990 flew 155 LSRA test missions from April of 1993 through August 1995 at NASA Dryden and the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.
A landing gear test fixture representative of the shuttle's landing gear system had been installed in the lower fuselage of the CV-990 test aircraft between the aircraft's normal main landing gear. Operated by a high-pressure hydraulic system, the test unit allowed engineers to assess and document the performance of space shuttle main and nose landing gear systems, tires and wheel assemblies, plus braking and nose wheel steering performance. The tests provided extensive data about the life and endurance of the shuttle tire systems and helped raise the shuttle crosswind landing limits, as well as resurfacing of the runway at KSC that reduced tire wear by half.
One of only 37 Convair 990 jetliners built by the General Dynamics Corp., NASA 810 was built in 1962 and flown in commercial passenger service by American Airlines and Modern Air Transport until acquired by NASA Ames in 1975 for use as a research aircraft.
The Plane Crazy Saturday event is centered on Legacy Park near the airport administration building, and will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visitors may walk along a paved pathway from the park to see the CV-990 up close at the Highway 58 and Airport Way entrance.
Numerous other specialty, home-built and general aviation aircraft will be on static display along the flight line. In addition, there will be exhibits and displays from NASA Dryden, the Antelope Valley Sea Cadets Squadron, an Apollo LRV mockup; aviation and space art by Mark Pestana and Doug Castleman, Usborne Books and the Mojave Transportation Museum Foundation.
Aircraft and space collectibles and artworks will be available for sale and viewing, and food will be available in the Voyager Restaurant.