NASA modified four Gulfstream II aircraft to mimic the landing profile of a Space Shuttle orbiter and provide a simulating platform for astronauts. Inside, the bipolar cockpit of the STA is half orbiter, half airplane, complete with the same glass cockpit screens and control surfaces that a Shuttle Commander would later use to glide their spacecraft to a smooth landing. Outside, the Gulfstream’s main landing gear were left down and the engines powered in reverse, making the airplane fall out of the sky at the intended 20-degree angle with similar handling characteristics to an orbiter. Shuttle Commanders and Pilots flew 1000 practice landings each in these airplanes before their missions.
STA N944NA is currently located at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California.