Honeywell International’s Phoenixbased Space Systems division makes many of the key systems that control and guide the space shuttles.
One of those components is the Multifunction Electronic Display Subsystem, an updated glass cockpit system that was installed in Columbia during an upgrade and modification in 2000. The system replaced Columbia’s electromechanical and cathode ray tube displays that were designed in the 1970s.
The space shuttle technology was based on a display system that Honeywell developed for the Boeing 777 airliner and provided Columbia with the most advanced flat-panel cockpit displays available for navigating and landing the orbiter, according to company information.
About 400 workers in Phoenix were involved with the system. The modernized displays gave the crew access to flight information such as speed, altitude, position and direction on two- and three-dimensional color display screens. The new system reduced vehicle weight and power consumption and simplified the cockpit panels.
The glass cockpit was installed in Columbia at Boeing’s Palmdale, Calif., plant. Boeing is the builder of the orbiter and space shuttle engines and plays a primary role in maintaining the fleet as part of a 50/50 joint venture with fellow defense contractor Lockheed Martin called United Space Alliance. Boeing has two facilities in the East Valley, but none of the space shuttle work is performed in Arizona.
Honeywell Space Systems also produces numerous other control systems for the shuttles. They include main engine controllers that are attached to each of the shuttle’s three liquid-fuel main engines and can throttle them up and down. The space division makes the flight control system that manages the vehicle’s flight, controlling the shuttle’s direction during ascent, orbit and reentry.
Honeywell’s contribution includes cockpit hand controls, speed brake thrust controls, software for the computerized flight control system and devices that relay commands from the controls to the operational system.
Honeywell supplies 23 multiplexer/ demultiplexer units for each orbiter that link the shuttle’s main computers with systems throughout the spacecraft. The space division also designed the automatic landing system software, which controls the craft from an altitude of 10,000 feet to landing and rollout.
The company also makes transducers that provide data on air pressure and temperature during approach and landing and actuators that control maneuvering engines in orbit.