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Government and Politics


NASA looks for what's different at Glenn and Plumbrook
The space agency is following up on an inspector general's report on projects that are old, duplicative or have lost their way
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE


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M.L. Schultze
 
NASA Glenn photo commemorating John Glenn's Friendship 7 flight
Courtesy of NASA
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NASA is undergoing a system-wide review that could result in some underused facilities at NASA Glenn Research Center being closed. But a spokesman for the agency says it also could result in more work being shifted to Northeast Ohio. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on the early stages in the search for duplication in the nation’s space agency.

SCHULTZE: NASA Glenn looks for what's unique

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An inspector general’s report says nearly three dozen of NASA’s technical facilities nationwide are old, duplicative or no longer have a clear purpose. That includes five wind tunnels, vacuum chambers and rocket-firing stands at NASA Glenn near the Cleveland Hopkins Airport and its satellite Plum Brook facility in Sandusky.

But the director of external programs at NASA Glenn, Steve Sanderson, say the inspector general’s report was only a first step and is being followed by assessments from each NASA center to headquarters.

“And they’re reviewing it to determine the functions and the services that are common to all the centers and what is unique about all of the centers. That assessment is still ongoing and there are no closure plans under dicussion at all.”

Sanderson acknowledges the agency is planning to close one of the sites identified by the inspector general – the cryogenic propellant tank facility at Plum Brook  -- by the end of next year. But he says even part of that – the vacuum chamber that imitates conditions of space – is likely to be used elsewhere on the property.

NASA Glenn employs more than 3,300 worker and contractors, and is worth more than a billion dollars to the Northeast Ohio economy. 


Here's NASA Glenn's overview of the facility (K-Site) it plans to close and its other unique facilities:

K-Site
The Cryogenic Propellant Tank Facility (K-Site) is a space-environment test chamber 25 feet in diameter with a 20- foot diameter door. The design and construction allows large-scale liquid hydrogen (LH2) experiments to be conducted. Control and data systems are in a separate, remote building and electrical control systems include explosion-proof hardware.

Other features of K-Site include a removable LH2/LN2 cryogenic cold wall, which can simulate deep-space temperatures down to -423°F, vacuum-jacketed LH2 piping and chamber penetrations, a hydraulic-shaker system, a vacuum-jacketed LH2 dump line and burnoff stack to handle accidental LH2 spills.

K-Site is involved in the development of advanced insulation systems and on-orbit fluid transfer techniques for flight-weight cryogenic fuel tanks and insulation systems. The facility includes an 800-gallon slush hydrogen batch production plant and a 200-gallon densification system.
 
An overview of Glenn’s facilities:
NASA Glenn has 25 major test facilities and more than 100 research and development laboratories in Cleveland and at Plum Brook Station in Sandusky. Ground test facilities include the world’s largest thermal vacuum facility, aeropropulsion wind tunnels, engine test cells and research and development laboratories. Ground-test facilities are used by NASA, other government agencies, universities and industry.
 
Glenn's short-list of its test facilities:
The Aero-Acoustic Propulsion Laboratory is an acoustically treated geodesic dome that houses three tests rigs supporting engine noise-reduction research. 
 
The Propulsion Systems Laboratory is NASA’s only ground-based test facility that provides true flight simulation for experimental research on air-breathing propulsion systems.
 
The Icing Research Tunnel is one of the world’s largest refrigerated wind tunnels dedicated to the study of aircraft icing.
 
The 9-by-15 Low-Speed Wind Tunnel is the most utilized low-speed propulsion acoustic facility in the world and is the only national facility that can simulate takeoff, approach, and landing in a continuous subsonic flow wind-tunnel environment.
 
The Zero Gravity Research Facility is the largest facility of its kind in the world and continues to be the most modern research tool in the U.S. for exploring weightlessness or microgravity, here on Earth.
 
The Electric Propulsion Laboratory develops and tests spacecraft power and propulsion technologies for space missions. It features two large space environment simulation chambers; 10 intermediate simulation chambers; and bell jars for development and testing of small-scale components.
 
The Space Power Facility, the world’s largest space environmental simulation chamber, provides the capability to test large spacecraft in a thermal-vacuum environment.
 
The Flight Research Building houses innovative aircraft, including the Learjet Model 25, the S-3B, and the Twin Otter.
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