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Space Shuttle Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) Sites

Ben Guerir Air Base, Morocco

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Satellite View of Morocco The Ben Guerir Air Base in Morocco, deactivated in 2005, was used for all inclination launches as a weather alternate TAL site because of its geographic location and its landing support facilities. Ben Guerir replaced Casablanca, Morocco, which was last used as a contingency landing site in January 1986. Ben Guerir was designated as a TAL site in July 1988 and was last used for STS-111 in June 2002.

Morocco is located along the northwest coast of Africa, between 27 degrees and 37 degrees north. It is shielded from the Sahara desert of northern Africa by the Atlas Mountains on the eastern border of the country. A cool ocean current runs along the west coast, similar to the situation in southern California, which makes the coastal areas subject to low clouds and fog most of the year. The interior sections of the country are generally arid with most precipitation occurring from November to April and concentrated in the north.

Ben Guerir is located on a flat, rocky, desert plain about 36 miles north of Marrakech and is a former Strategic Air Command Base abandoned in 1962. It has one runway, oriented in a north-south direction, which is 200 feet wide with 25-foot shoulders and is equipped with shuttle-unique landing aids allowing for landings in both directions. Runway 18 is 12,720 feet long with a 1,000-foot underrun/overrun, while Runway 36 which is the primary runway, is 13,720 feet long with a 1,000-foot underrun and a 2,500-foot compacted dirt overrun for a total of 15,720 feet.

NASA completed a construction project in 1988 that rejuvenated the runway, added shuttle-unique visual landing aids and a Microwave Landing System (MLS), a Tactical Air Control and Navigation (TACAN) system, two remote weather towers, and put in place utility and personnel transport vehicles, four fire trucks, and two ambulances. An operations and storage building was also constructed along with a tower to house the satellite communications systems and other antennas. Sealer was applied to the asphalt surface of the runway to help preserve and protect the surface.

Communications included three INMARSAT satellite circuits and Moroccan commercial telephone lines. Internet capability was available through a local Internet Service Provider.

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