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Approach and Runway Lighting

    Approach and Runway Lighting

    Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) is a system of lights arranged to provide visual descent guidance information during the shuttle's approach to the runway. The light units are installed in a single row and have an effective visual range of about 5 miles (8 km) during the day and up to 20 miles (32 km) at night. The PAPI is installed at the center of the runway, adjusts to allow for a glide slope of 16 to 21 degrees, and is used as the outer glide slope reference.

    Approach and Runway Lighting

    Visual Approach Slope Indicator (VASI) is used as an inner glide slope. The row of red lights is used in conjunction with the white ball to indicate the shuttle's vertical position relative to the desired glide path of 1.5 degrees during the final flair just before touchdown.

    Approach and Runway Lighting


    Portable, high-intensity xenon lights illuminate the touchdown zone to support orbiter landings in darkness. The orbiter has no landing lights of its own. Located on both sides of the runway, a light trailer with three xenon lights is capable of producing 24,000,000 candelas. They are powered from their own generators, making them truly portable. The xenon lights also provide illumination of the reflective side, centerline, and distance-to-go markers.

    For additional information about White Sands Space Harbor, contact Robert Mitchell, (575) 524-5774, or robert.e.mitchell@nasa.gov.