Space Shuttle Support
NASA Dryden continues to support NASA's human space flight program as an alternate landing site for the space shuttle orbiters. Dryden has been the site of 50 space shuttle landings since the first orbital flight in April 1981, most recently the landing of shuttle orbiter Discovery at the end of mission STS-114 in August 2005. After an Edwards' landing, orbiters are serviced at Dryden for ferry flights back to Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop one of NASA's two modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Dryden was also the site of the approach-and-landing tests of the prototype orbiter Enterprise in 1977.
Image above: NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft with the shuttle orbiter Discovery on top lifts off to begin its ferry flight back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (NASA photo by Carla Thomas)
Along with research and support aircraft, Dryden assets include a high-temperature and loads-calibration laboratory; aircraft flight instrumentation capability; a flow visualization facility to study airflow patterns; a data-analysis facility to process flight research data; and remotely piloted vehicle flight research expertise. Dryden's Research Aircraft Integration Facility (RAIF) simultaneously checks aircraft flight controls, avionics, electronics and other systems. The only facility of its type in NASA, the RAIF is designed to accelerate and enhance systems integration and preflight checks on research aircraft.
Image above: NASA's modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft is positioned under the Space Shuttle Discovery to be attached for its ferry flight to the Kennedy Space Center. (NASA photo by Carla Thomas)
From a handful of engineers who established the center in the late 1940s, Dryden now employs approximately 950 government and contractor personnel. Its FY 2007 NASA budget is about $183 million.