eksath From United States of America, joined Aug 2004, 1135 posts, RR: 27 Posted (2 years 11 months 2 weeks 16 hours ago) and read 3599 times:
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Photo results of high speed engine off shuttle night landing (almost pitch darkness)
I was runway side for STS:123 return. It was pitch dark and there was mosquitoes,assorted other bugs,gators and snakes around. It sure was a memorable landing. The photo result of the experience is here:
For up and down on each mission, the STS plays an important role as there is an astronaut shooting approaches at the SLF making sure that in case of an abort (for up) or in a landing that the SLF is visible and that there is no rain clouds,fog etc cutting into the safety magins. Launch Control and Mission Control relies on the STA to give real time feedback of weather to supplement what the USAF weather squadron is providing from other sources.
As the orbiter rolls to wheels stop, the STA has traditionally flown above her to check her out and also as a welcome gesture. On this particular mission (currently billed as Atlantis's last), this final gesture was very poignant. As the orbiter's last seconds of flight ticked down, there was a heightened sense of reverence watching the standard operations unfold. Atlantis emerged out of the last heading alignment circle opened air brakes and put her nose down to start her dive for the runway. At the same time, on the corresponding opposite side of the runway threshold, I picked out the STA turning in a slower and delayed version of the shuttle path. So moments after Atlantis whizzed by me, I started tracking the STA coming in right after her in the same flight attitude. The two images you see are her chasing after the orbiter which is still rolling down the runway at this point. Just at about wheels stop (perhaps the final one for Atlantis), N946NA gave her customary salute to Atlantis.
Quoting Dazed767 (Reply 3): The STA flies at the same speeds, dive angle and approach trajectory as the Shuttle. To do this, the main gear is lowered (not nose gear) and the aircraft engines are thrown into reverse in-flight.
Wow! Is this flying, gliding (or falling like a brick)?? That must be a hell of an experience!
The STA is in kinda of a skydive in which the person is trying to get maximum speed in a forward direction instead of falling straight down. It is amzing to see it hang in the air at altitude. I have some shots of her in flight and I will try and dig them up.