Spaceflight Now Home

Spaceflight Now +

Premium video content for our Spaceflight Now Plus subscribers.

Tank modifications
The space shuttle external fuel tank was redesigned following the Columbia accident. This video looks at some of the key changes. (2min 30sec file)
 Play video

Tank processing
What are the steps to preparing a space shuttle external fuel tank for launch? This video narrates the process using footage from Discovery's launch campaign. (5min 50sec file)
 Play video

Discovery's payloads
Scott Higginbotham, the STS-114 payload manager, narrates video of space shuttle Discovery's payloads being prepared for the return to flight mission. (11min 53sec file)
 Play video

Next mission to Mars
NASA's next voyage to the Red Planet is introduced by project managers and scientists in this news conference from 1 p.m. EDT on Thursday, July 21. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will launch in August on a mission to provide the sharpest images ever taken of Earth's neighboring planet. (34min 10sec file)

 Play video:
   Dial-up| Broadband

 Download audio:
   For iPod

Atlantis preps
Space shuttle Atlantis is hoisted upright and moved into position for mating with the external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters for the second post-Columbia mission, now scheduled for September. (5min 48sec file)
 Play video

Astronauts return
Space shuttle Discovery's seven astronauts arrive at different times on Friday, July 22 at Kennedy Space Center to resume launch preparations.

 Play video:
   Part 1| Part 2| Part 3

Technicians work inside shuttle Discovery's cramp aft compartment to troubleshoot the engine cutoff sensor problem. (2min 22sec file)
 Play video

Soyuz moved
Expedition 11 commander Sergei Krikalev and science officer John Phillips undock their Soyuz capsule from the Pirs module at 6:38 a.m. EDT, back 82 feet away, fly sideways for 45 feet and then guide the craft to docking with the Zarya module at 7:08 a.m. (30min 57sec file)
 Play video

Shuttle collection
As excitement builds for the first space shuttle launch in over two years, this comprehensive video selection captures the major pre-flight events for Discovery and her seven astronauts.
 See selection

Become a subscriber
More video

NASA helps smooth bumpy airline rides
Posted: July 24, 2005

Most airline passengers and flight crews have one thing in common: they don't like turbulence. Researchers at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and AeroTech Research (USA), Inc., Newport News, Va., have developed an automatic turbulence reporting system.

The Turbulence Auto-PIREP System (TAPS) is being tested on more than 80 Delta Airlines passenger jets. Researchers say TAPS technology improves aviation safety. When pilots know there's turbulence ahead, they can maneuver to avoid it or ensure passengers and flight attendants are seated and strapped in.

"TAPS automatically broadcasts turbulence encounter reports from aircraft and allows other planes and people on the ground to use this information," said NASA's Turbulence Prediction and Warning Systems project manager, Jim Watson. "Pilots describe turbulence encounters over their radios and by text reports called Pilot Reports (PIREPS). They tend to under-report when they encounter rough air, because they're busy trying to fly through or around it," he added.

"TAPS provides real-time turbulence information that has never been available," said Paul Robinson, President of AeroTech Research. "The beauty of TAPS is, it is only software and uses equipment already on the aircraft, making it inexpensive and easy to install."

Atmospheric turbulence is the leading cause of injuries to passengers and flight crews in non-fatal airline accidents. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) statistics show an average of 58 airline passengers are annually hurt in U.S. turbulence incidents. Ninety eight percent of those injuries happen because people don't have their seat belts fastened.

Turbulence encounters are hazardous, and they cost airlines money and time. The encounters cause injuries, flight re-routing, late arrivals, additional inspections and aircraft maintenance.

Delta Air Lines and ARINC, Annapolis, Md., have teamed with NASA and AeroTech Research to evaluate TAPS. Since August 2004, the TAPS software has been flying on more than 85 Delta Boeing 737-800, 767-300 and 767-400 aircraft.

TAPS' automatic, accurate and timely reporting of turbulence encounters is almost immediately displayed on computers on the ground and received in the cockpits of other aircraft. The system's processing of encounters takes into account how various aircraft respond to turbulence. TAPS allows pilots to see the reports for the area ahead of their aircraft; controllers to see reports relative to air traffic and airline personnel to evaluate the impact on their operations; all in real-time.

"From an airline standpoint, we see tremendous benefit from TAPS in identifying areas of turbulence," said Bill Watts, the turbulence program manager for Delta Air Lines. "In addition to its obvious safety benefits, the system may potentially identify areas of airspace that would otherwise be blocked from traffic because of the inadequate turbulence detection tools that we possess today. TAPS gives us some much needed hard data that can help us make better operational decisions."

The turbulence research was funded by the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate's Aviation Safety and Security Program in partnership with the FAA, aircraft manufacturers, airlines and the Department of Homeland Security.