Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

Santa becomes test pilot at Florida's shuttle landing site
Posted: December 24, 2000

An aerial view of the shuttle runway at Kennedy Space Center. Photo: NASA-KSC
Not only does Santa Claus know when you are sleeping or awake -- bad or good, he also knows with pinpoint accuracy the exact location of each planned delivery stop. With a newly installed Global Positioning System (GPS) on his sleigh, Santa plans to fly by the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) to test his space-age equipment against KSC's upgraded system.

Three differential GPS (DGPS) antennas, called Remote Satellite Measurement Units (RSMUs), were erected north of the mid-field point at the SLF during 2000. DGPS equipment is more accurate than the conventional GPS equipment used as navigational aids in automobiles and boats because each antenna sits on top of three survey points.

Both the SLF and the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station will be available to Santa after the facilities close down for the holidays. "Both of these landing strips can be used to support a pit stop for Santa and his team while in the Central Florida area," said Bob Bryan, the Airfield Services Manager for Space Gateway Support. "No additional expense to the taxpayers during this time of stress to family budgets will be incurred," he added. Bryan, assigned as manager of the landing strips during 2000, continues a tradition that started shortly after the opening of the SLF in the 1970s.

It is rumored that Santa is considering a "glass cockpit" upgrade to his sleigh before the 2001 Christmas deliveries begin. The new system would bring the sleigh up to par with fighter jets and Space Shuttle Atlantis. Atlantis underwent the "glass cockpit" modification during its last Orbiter Maintenance Down Period. Ann Beach, spokesperson for The Boeing Co. at KSC, said that she could not confirm, but neither would she deny, the report.