Space Cover #183: STS Abort Landing Sites
Landings of the shuttle have occurred at KSC and Edwards AFB, with one additional landing for STS-3 occurring at WSMR. But just as important during launch and during the mission were many abort landing sites in case there was an emergency during the launch and the flight had to be aborted. Weather conditions had to be acceptable at all of the assigned abort landing site locations for a launch to take place. Depending on the mission launch profile (such as the direction/angle the launch would take) determined which east coast locations were assigned. The trans-Atlantic locations changed over time but at all times several participated with each launch.
All sites have runways of sufficient length to support the landing of a space shuttle. For the sites used in the mission profile each site would have personnel from NASA as well as equipment to aid a space shuttle landing. The picture below shows the "barrier" erected on the runway to "catch" the shuttle if it had to land at the Moron Air Base for STS-66.
Sites on the East Coast of the United States and Canada could have been used for an East Coast Abort Landing (ECAL) situation include: Myrtle Beach International Airport, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Wilmington International Airport, North Carolina; Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina; Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia; Dover Air Force Base, Delaware; Bangor International Airport, Maine; Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts; Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts; Pease Air National Guard Base, Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Halifax Stanfield International Airport, Enfield, Nova Scotia; Stephenville International Airport, Stephenville, Newfoundland; CFB Goose Bay, Labrador; Gander International Airport, Gander, Newfoundland; and St. John's International Airport, St. Johns, Newfoundland.
For aborts that would take place later during the launch phase international locations designated as Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) sites included Lajes Air Base in Terceira island, Azores, Portugal, Zaragoza Air Base in Spain, Moron Air Base in Spain, and Istres Air Base in France. All sites have runways of sufficient length to support the landing of a space shuttle, and included personnel from NASA as well as equipment to aid a space shuttle landing. Zaragoza Air Base features Runway 30L with a length of 12,109 ft.; Moron Air Base features an 11,800 ft. runway; and Istres Air Base features Runway 33 with a length of 12,303 ft. Other TAL sites include Diego Garcia in the British Indian Ocean Territory; Cologne Bonn Airport in Germany; Ben Guerir Air Base, Morocco; Casablanca, Morocco; Banjul International Airport, The Gambia; Dakar, Senegal; Rota, Spain; and Kano, Nigeria.
For West Coast sites for the launches to have taken place from Vandenberg AFB the shuttle could have returned to Vandenberg or had a TAL situation arisen Hao and Easter Islands in the Pacific Ocean would have been the TAL sites.
The cover above is a cover from Rota, Spain as the abort landing site for the STS-7 launch. Can you complete a collection of all the shuttle landing sites?