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March 1992
Fact Sheet

NASA Langley Research Center Contributions to Space Shuttle Program


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Long-Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF):
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Aerodynamic Design of the Space Shuttle Orbiter (January 1, 1979)
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Building on its strong tradition of research into the performance of winged flying vehicles as well as pioneering work on hypersonic gliders, the X-15 rocket plane, and other types of "space planes," Langley made vital contributions to NASA's Space Shuttle program.

  • Contributed to the technology base for a reusable space vehicle and developed preliminary Shuttle designs
  • Recommended modified delta wing for vehicle rather than conventional straight wing
  • Conducted wind tunnel tests (60,000 wind tunnel hours) and analysis; over one-half of the Aerodynamic Design Data Book came from Langley wind tunnel test results
  • Conducted structures and materials tests to determine the requirements for various areas of the vehicle
  • Investigated and certified the Thermal Protection System for launch environment
  • Performed independent design, analyses and simulation studies to solve problems on the Orbiter flight control and guidance systems
  • Conducted landing tests on Shuttle main and nose gear tires and brake systems
  • Conducted runway surface texture tests and recommended Kennedy runway modifications
  • Participated in the redesign of solid rocket booster components
  • Examined launch abort and crew bailout capabilities
  • Defined ascent aerodynamic wing loads
Langley's involvement with the Space Shuttle does not end with the improvements to the vehicle, but continues through using the vehicle as transportation into orbit or as a testbed for Langley-developed experiments, such as the Orbiter Experiments, the Assembly Concept for Construction of Erectable Space Structures (ACCESS), the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF), and the Crew Equipment Translation Aid (CETA).