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Landing the Space Shuttle Orbiter at KSC
 Release No. FS-2000-05-30-KSC
Revised May 2000
A version of this fact sheet dated March 1992 is available.

Landing the Space Shuttle Orbiter

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Discovery Touches Down at KSC After a Successful Mission. Orbiter Discovery lowers its nose wheel after touching down on runway 33 at the Shuttle Landing Facility, successfully completing mission STS-95, which lasted nearly nine days and 3.6 million miles.

As the processing and launch site of the Space Shuttle, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida is also the preferred end-of-mission landing site for the Shuttle orbiter. Edwards Air Force Base (EAFB) in California is the prime alternate site.

Landing the orbiter at KSC’s Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) instead of at EAFB saves at least an estimated three-quarter million dollars and about five days of processing time for its next mission. A KSC landing also eliminates the necessity of exposing the orbiter, a national resource, to the uncertainties and potential dangers of a cross-country ferry trip atop one of NASA’s two modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

With its diverse choice of concrete and spacious dry lake bed runways, EAFB offers a reliable alternate landing site to Florida because of its more stable and predictable weather conditions. Unlike launches for which a "go" for liftoff can be given within minutes of changing weather conditions during the launch window, the landing site must be chosen more than an hour before touchdown, when the deorbit burn takes place. A switch in sites usually can be made up to 90 minutes prior to landing.

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