From: Kennedy Space Center
Posted: Thursday, December 21, 2006
The Debris Imaging Radar System, used during the night launch of NASA's space shuttle mission STS-116, is a new system at Kennedy Space Center in Florida that will now be made available to Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.
Based on its success in identifying even the smallest amount of debris coming off the orbiter or the external tank, NASA has strong confidence the system will provide assistance in observing Santa's sleigh. Since the elves have the packages piled high, NASA can determine with great accuracy if any gifts planned for delivery fall off the sleigh. The radar system is capable of high-definition radar imagery, so the approximate shape, size and weight of the packages can be determined.
This could greatly help Santa recover the packages so that no child is disappointed by not receiving the presents the jolly fellow promised while he made the rounds in shopping malls before Christmas. The radar has an auto-track mode so that it can be left unattended on Christmas Eve and still perform its intended function. The system will be automatically activated once NASA's air traffic control radar located on north KSC has made radar contact with Santa's sleigh.
Also of assistance to Santa this year is the new Differential Global Positioning Satellite System ground station at the Shuttle Landing Facility. These new GPS antennas located near the control tower can help if there is an emergency. Since the sleigh is now GPS equipped, it can guide Santa to a landing within 10 feet of the runway's centerline, regardless of which end of the runway he needs to use.
Though Shuttle Landing Facility personnel will be on holiday leave, officials at the NASA Tower have agreed to provide the customary support by turning the landing lights on before they depart for Christmas, as well as turning on the TACAN radio homing beacon and the visual alternating green and white lighted rotating beacon.
NASA will use the orbiter Discovery to mimic Santa's sleigh during the STS-116 landing currently planned for Friday, in order to test the ability to operate these two new systems in auto-track mode. If the orbiter is waved off to land on the West Coast, the Shuttle Training Aircraft will be used to simulate Santa's sleigh.
If Santa needs help, one of the primary radio frequencies normally used for communication in restricted airspace will still be monitored by the Air Force Eastern Range and also NASA security.
For more information about KSC's assistance to Santa, contact the KSC News Center at 321-867-2468.
// end //