This guide is intended to give the commander of a base preparing to support an unplanned orbiter landing the essential details necessary to provide such support. Copies should be readily available to the base commander, air traffic control, crash and rescue, weather, and other personnel that will be affected by an orbiter landing.
Airspace Clearance. Since the orbiter has no air-breathing engines, it will make an unpowered glide approach and landing. Local airspace authorities must be notified to clear airspace for the approach (non-CONUS). The orbiter is expected to descend through flight level (FL) 600 approximately 35 NM from touchdown. The time to landing at this point is 4 1/2 minutes. Airspace must be cleared for a 15 NM radius of the runway from surface to FL 600 and from FL 300 to FL 600 15 NM either side of the inbound track from the runway out to 35 NM. See Tab A to Appendix 1 to Annex C.
Dedicated Runway. Since the orbiter cannot execute a go-around, a dedicated runway is required for its exclusive use until after touchdown and rollout. A foreign object damage (FOD) check should be made and the runway arresting gear/cables/barriers removed, if installed. Sequential, airfield approach strobes will be in the following configuration: Dusk/Night - Off; Day (Visibility < 10) - On; Day (Visibility > 10) - Off. VASIs and threshold strobe lights should be off for all landings. Runway edge lights will be on bright setting for daylight landings and step 3 for night landing.
Runway Emergency Forces. Runway emergency forces should respond to an orbiter landing in a similar manner as they would to a large military aircraft making an emergency landing. Maximum response posture by fire/crash/rescue and local SAR forces is desired. The U.S. Regional Rescue Coordination Center has already been/will be notified of this emergency. The DDMS Procedures Document (reference a.) which should be available in your fire department, contains details on crewmember rescue and hazards associated with the orbiter vehicle. If the DDMS Procedures Document is not available, see AFTO 00-105E-9, Section VII.
Landing Support. The orbiter may establish radio contact with the tower on 243.0 MHz approximately 10 minutes before touchdown. Depending on the nature of the emergency, the shuttle crew may not transmit to the local tower. JSC at Houston should be in contact with the orbiter through touchdown. The tower should be prepared to give landing weather, including temperature, once contact is established. The orbiter should roll out 7,000 to 10,000 feet after touchdown. Ammonia venting is expected from the top, aft section of the orbiter, for approximately 15 minutes. Other potential toxic and explosive propellants are aboard; therefore, all personnel should remain clear of the downwind area. Non-essential personnel must remain at least 1,250 feet from the orbiter. Personnel entering the downwind area or within 700 feet of the orbiter must have full body protective clothing and protective breathing similar to fire department protective clothing and breathing air. The crew is expected to power down the orbiter and exit unassisted approximately 15 minutes after landing. If assistance is required, follow the procedures in the DDMS Procedures Document (reference a.). Propellant types and quantities are listed in Appendix 11 to Annex C and of this document and reference g.
Post-landing Support. A NASA Mishap Investigation Team (MIT) and Rapid Response Team (RRT) has been alerted and will be en route shortly. You will be advised of the number of personnel and estimated time of arrival (ETA) when available. Please make preparations to billet these personnel. The RRT will be responsible for towing the orbiter from the runway and safing on-board systems. Two DDMS representatives will accompany the team. Until their arrival, the orbiter crew will provide any specifics concerning orbiter care. Security of the orbiter vehicle during this period is paramount. See Annex L. DDMS will maintain this communications line open until the situation is resolved. Continuous verbal situation reports are required as preparations proceed and landing/post-landing support is provided. DDMS personnel are available to answer general or technical questions as they arise.
1. General. The three major components of the Space Shuttle vehicle; orbiter, external tank (ET), and solid rocket boosters (SRB) all contain various types/amounts of hazardous materials. Consequently, a toxic, combustible, and/or explosive environment is possible in the event of a serious mishap. This appendix outlines the hazards and prescribes areas where protective clothing and breathing equipment must be used during orbiter flight crew rescue/recovery operations and/or orbiter ground handling operations. Hazards associated with various payloads will be identified in messages/orders by NASA KSC Payload Safety (EI-F-A) for each mission.
2. Planning Factors.
a. Launch. Potential hazards to DOD personnel supporting a launch are explosive hazards from the Space Shuttle while on the launch pad, release of toxic combustion products, falling debris resulting from a launch mishap, and the cloud that develops from the SRB exhaust during nominal launch operations.
(1) Debris Hazard. An impact limit line has been established to protect personnel from debris resulting from a launch mishap. All support personnel will remain outside the impact limit line during launch. DOD support personnel will be briefed on the impact limit line before launch.
(2) Exhaust Cloud. An exhaust cloud will develop during a nominal launch. The exhaust products during launch include hydrogen chloride, nitrogen oxides, chlorine, carbon monoxide, and aluminum oxide. DOD forces should avoid entering the exhaust cloud.
b. Crew Rescue. Crew rescue presents specific hazards, which must be recognized and avoided by rescue personnel. The DDMS Procedures Document (reference a.) should be referred to for specific crew rescue procedures and general hazard information. The Shuttle Operational Data Book, Volume IV (reference c.) provides detailed hazard information concerning the orbiter. Rescue planners and rescue teams should become thoroughly familiar with the information contained in both documents.
(1) Gases/Fluids. Tab A to Appendix 11 to Annex C reflects quantities of hazardous fluids and gases that are estimated to be on board the orbiter during landing. Standard fire protection clothing and breathing apparatus provide protection from minimal exposure to hazardous fluids and gases when appropriate wash down procedures are used. Establish a clear zone downwind of the orbiter and approach from upwind.
(2) Orbiter Surface Temperatures. After landing, the orbiter's surfaces may be hot from reentry heating. All personnel should avoid touching glass or exposed metal areas. The thermal protective system tiles are extremely fragile and, to prevent damage, should not be touched.
c. Landing. After landing and subsequent roll out at an ELS, DOD personnel will provide orbiter security until NASA personnel arrive. DOD ground support personnel must be aware of potential hazards during these operations. Reference c. contains detailed hazard planning information.
(1) Gases/Fluids. Appendix 1 lists the primary hazardous gases and fluids aboard the orbiter during landing. Additional fluids and gases (Freon, hydraulic fluid, etc.) are addressed in reference c.
(2) Explosive Hazards. Explosive hazard protection should be established IAW applicable military service directives (reference c.). Refer to the DDMS Procedures Document for explosives locations.
(3) Orbiter Surface Temperatures. The information and guidance contained in paragraph 2.b.(2), above, also applies to landing support activities. In addition to the temperature hazard, personnel should refrain from touching orbiter thermal protective system tiles to avoid damaging the tiles.
(4) Hydrogen Build-Up. During launch, hydrogen (H2) may leak into the voids around the main engines. While it is normally vented through the ET doors and other vents, auto-ignition may result after landing due to high surface temperatures. Note that the flame of pure H2 is invisible.
A. Hazardous Fluids/Gases
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
MANNED SPACE FLIGHT SUPPORT OFFICE
Patrick AFB FL 32925-3239
15 February 2003
TAB A TO APPENDIX 10 TO ANNEX C TO DDMS CONTINGENCY FUNCPLAN 3610-03