Press Kit for Space Shuttle Endeavour Flyover
Because of the historic contributions to the shuttle program by NASA's Ames Research Center, space shuttle Endeavour will be flying over Ames on the morning of Sept. 21, 2012. Media can contact Jessica Culler
to RSVP at 650-604-4789. More resources will be added to this page as available.
List of Major Ames Contributions:
- Thermal Protection Systems, 1970s and 1980s: As a reusable space vehicle, returning to Earth at Mach 25, the Shuttle Orbiter required the most complex thermal protection system ever built. Ames researchers evaluated early tile materials, quickly invented improvements, and conducted important Orbiter Flight Experiments. Ames developed heat-resistant Reaction Cured Glass Coatings and Advanced Flexible Blankets that covered most of the Orbiter surface, and continued scientific studies of the continuing effectiveness of the Shuttle thermal protection systems.
- Thermal Protection Systems, 1990s and 2000s: Over the long life of the Shuttle, Ames researchers invented and tested tile materials to ever-more effectively protect to the Shuttle Orbiters. Tiles of Toughened Unipeice Fibrous Insulation (TUFI) resolved issues of damage from ground handling and debris impact, Fibrous Refractory Composite Insulation tiles were stronger and more heat resistant, and the Ames gap filler solved a problem of heating between tiles. The hands-on experience of Ames people with Shuttle thermal protection gave the Center expertise in the future of reentry technology.
- Arc Jet and Reentry Facilities: Reentry technology for the Shuttle Orbiter, in advance of first flight, was ground tested by Ames engineers using specialized facilities they invented. Ames people built the largest arc jet complex in the world to test, in near-realistic reentry conditions, large samples of many generations of Shuttle tiles and blankets. They also pioneered and mastered the prediction of superheated airflows and its chemical interactions with the hot heat shields.
- Lifting Body Concept: The shape of the Shuttle Orbiter had its roots in the lifting body research done at Ames, by a group of remarkable aerodynamicists who pushed flight into the hypersonic regime. Upon reentry, like all reentry vehicles, the Orbiter executes a blunt body trajectory pioneered at Ames
- Wind Tunnel Development Testing: More than half of all preflight tests of the Shuttle, totalling more than 35,000 hours, was done by Ames aerodynamicists in their superb series of wind tunnels. High-speed tests in the 3.5 foot hypersonic and Unitary Plan Tunnels clarified the complex aerodynamics of ascent and re-entry. Low-speed tests improved its unpowered descent, and demonstrated ferrying and separation from a jumbo jet, enable the successful first flight of the Orbiter Enterprise.
- Computational Fluid Dynamics: Ames experts in computational fluid dynamics, using Ames ever-faster supercomputers, constantly improved the codes that modeled airflows around the Shuttle, and suggested many refinements to Shuttle aerodynamics. As early as the 1970s, Ames CFDers played a key role in the approximating the Orbiter reentry heating envelop, as well as clarifying the complex aerodynamics of the ascent stack, and in guiding later redesign of the Shuttle main engine.
- Pilot Training and Cockpit Simulation: Ames people played a key role in the engineering and training related to Shuttle Orbiter approach, landing and rollout. Cockpit designs and flight procedures were refined at a unique set of flight simulators built at NASA Ames. In the Flight Simulator for Advanced Aircraft, Ames human factor specialists developed the orbiter display technology and solved an important flight issue. Over the thirty years of the Shuttle program, every Shuttle pilot practiced approaches and landings at the Ames Vertical Motion Simulator
- Shuttle Orbiter Landing Site Management: Ames people managed the Shuttle landing site, at the Ames-Dryden Flight Research Facility, from 1981 to 1994. Before the development of a parachute to enable landings in Florida, Ames managed 38 safe landings and ever-more efficient post-flight processing.
- Life Sciences Payloads, 1980s to 2011: Ames people spearheaded the use of the Shuttle for basic research in the space life sciences. In addition to their own fundamental work in gravitational and radiation biology, Ames life scientists devised and managed spaceborne laboratories for plants animals, cells and microbes used by scientists from around the world.
- Biomedical Research and Advanced Life Support: Ames work in space biomedicine with the Shuttle provided key insights on how humans adapt to spaceflight. Ames scientists conducted enabling ground-based research with animals and humans, and devised new instruments and research protocols used by astronauts while in orbit. Anticipating that humans would eventually settle our solar system, Ames researchers used the Shuttle to hone advanced life support technologies to sustain human life beyond Earth.
- Columbia Accident Investigation Board: Ames researchers played a key role in one of the most intense failure analyses ever conducted. They helped isolate the cause and ramifications of the accident that led to the tragic loss of the Orbiter Columbia and her crew. They created tools to track the investigation and provided insights that will make future crewed spacecraft safer.
- Return to Flight: To assure that the Shuttle would safely fly for the rest of its operational life, NASA turned to Ames to once more refine the Shuttle as spacecraft. Ames engineers studied Shuttle aerodynamics with sophisticated new technology, and developed new tools to analyze and repair the Orbiter thermal protection system.
- Education and Public Outreach: The Space Shuttle program, as with the Apollo program, has served as an inspiration to countless young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Ames education in collaboration with industry and academic partners has reinforced this desire by developing and implementing innovative programs that have included organizing public events to summer internships, supporting life-long learners from early childhood to retirement.