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Navigational Aids

    The Shuttle Landing Facility is equipped with a number of navigation and landing aids to assist shuttle pilots in landing. A Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN) system is used by pilots to execute instrument landing approaches to the runway. The TACAN is a worldwide air traffic navigation system operated by the Department of Defense and used by civilian and military aircraft. The TACAN signal ranges to 300 nautical miles (483 km) and is received by the orbiter when it emerges from the reentry blackout period. TACAN ground installations, known as beacons, provide an L-band (1 gigahertz) signal that indicates the range and magnetic bearing angle from the TACAN antenna to the user. Each orbiter has three independent, redundant TACAN sets, each with two antennas.

    Navigational Aids

    The orbiter's final landing approach is guided by the Microwave Scanning Beam Landing System (MSBLS). The MSBLS is a Ku-band precision approach and landing navigation aid that provides slant range, azimuth, and elevation data to the orbiter from approximately an 18,000 ft (5486 m) altitude, 15-nautical miles (28 km) range, through touchdown. Each runway has two MSBLS shelters, one for elevation and one for azimuth and distance. The azimuth and elevation data are broadcast by a rapidly oscillating antenna. Equipment onboard the orbiter receives data from the MSBLS stations and automatically makes any needed adjustments to the glide slope.

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