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NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field
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Aerial View of Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field - GPN-2000-002008.jpg
Aerial view of Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field
Agency overview
Formed 1942
Preceding agencies
  • Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory
  • NASA Lewis Research Center
Jurisdiction Federal government of the United States
Headquarters Brook Park, Ohio, U.S.
Agency executive
  • Janet L. Kavandi, director
Parent agency NASA
Child agency
  • Plum Brook Station
Website Glenn Center home page

NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field is a NASA center, located within the cities of Brook Park and Cleveland between Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and the Cleveland Metroparks' Rocky River Reservation, with a subsidiary facility in Sandusky, Ohio. Its director is Janet L. Kavandi. Glenn Research Center is one of ten major NASA field centers, whose primary mission is to develop science and technology for use in aeronautics and space. As of May 2012, it employed about 1,650 civil servants and 1,850 support contractors located on or near its site.

In 2010, the formerly on-site NASA Visitors Center moved to the Great Lakes Science Center.


The installation was established in 1942 as part of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and was later incorporated into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a laboratory for aircraft engine research.

It was initially named the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory after funding approval was given in June 1940. It was renamed the Flight Propulsion Research Laboratory in 1947, the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in 1948 (after George W. Lewis (head of NACA from 1919 to 1947) and the NASA Lewis Research Center in 1958.

On March 1, 1999, the Lewis Research Center was officially renamed the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field after John Glenn (American fighter pilot, astronaut and politician). Within NASA, the Glenn Research Center is often referred to by the initialism GRC.

As early as 1951, researchers at the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory were studying the combustion processes in liquid rocket engines.


Plum Brook Station (PBS)

GRC PBS B-2 Facility Aerial View
GRC Plum Brook Station Spacecraft Propulsion Facility (B-2)

The 6,400-acre (2,600 ha) Plum Brook field station near Sandusky, Ohio is also part of Glenn. It is located about 50 mi. from the main campus. It specializes in very large-scale tests which would be hazardous within the confines of the main campus.

As of 2015 the Plum Brook Station consists of five major facilities:

  • Space Power Facility (SPF)
  • B-2 Spacecraft Propulsion Research Facility (B-2), as of 2015 not fully functional
  • Combined Effects Chamber, as of 2015 unusable
  • Hypersonic Test Facility (HTF)
  • Cryogenic Components Laboratory (CCL), as of 2015 slated for demolition

The Plum Brook Reactor Facility was decontaminated and decommissioned at an estimated cost $33.5 million, following a 2008 decision.

Spacecraft Propulsion Facility (B-2)

The Spacecraft Propulsion Facility (B-2) at Plum Brook Station (PBS) is the world's only facility capable of testing full-scale upper-stage launch vehicles and rocket engines under simulated high-altitude conditions. The Space Power Facility houses the world's largest space environment vacuum chamber.

Icing tunnel

An icing tunnel is capable of simulating atmospheric icing condition to test the effect of ice accretion on aircraft wings and body as well as to test anti-icing systems for aircraft.

Zero Gravity Research Facility

The Zero Gravity Research Facility is a vertical vacuum chamber used for microgravity experiments. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985. The facility uses vertical drop tests in a vacuum chamber to investigate the behavior of components, systems, liquids, gases, and combustion in such circumstances.

The facility consists of a concrete-lined shaft, 28 feet (8.5 m) in diameter, that extends 510 feet (160 m) below ground level. An aluminum vacuum chamber, 20 feet (6.1 m) in diameter and 470 feet (140 m) high, is contained within the concrete shaft. The pressure in this vacuum chamber is reduced to 13.3 newtons per square meter (1.3×10−4atm) before use.

After the closing of the Japan Microgravity Centre (JAMIC), the NASA Zero-G facility is the largest microgravity facility in the world.

Another, smaller drop tower remains in use. That tower has a free fall time of 2.2 seconds, and the Dropping In Microgravity Environment (DIME) program is conducted there.

Significant developments

NASA Glenn does significant research and technology development on jet engines, producing designs that reduce energy consumption, pollution and noise. The chevrons it invented for noise reduction appear on many commercial jet engines today, including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The Glenn Research Center, along with its partners in industry, are credited with the following:

  • The liquid hydrogen rocket engine, which Wernher von Braun credited as being the critical technology leading to the Apollo moon landing
  • The Centaur upper stage rocket
  • The Gridded Ion thruster, a high-efficiency engine for spaceflight. A Glenn-derived ion engine was used on the successful NASA probe Deep Space 1.
  • The Electrical Power System (EPS) for Space Station Freedom, which, except for minor modifications, is currently used on International Space Station (ISS)

NASA Glenn Visitor Center

Skylab 3 Apollo Command Module
The Apollo Command Module of the Skylab 3 mission being moved to the Great Lakes Science Center

The NASA Glenn Visitor Center features six galleries with interactive exhibits about NASA, space exploration, John Glenn and other astronauts, satellites and the solar system. The center also features an auditorium for lectures, movies and special programs, and a gift shop. Admission is free. Adult visitors must be U.S. citizens and present photo identification.

The NASA Glenn Research Center also offers public tours of its research facilities on the first Saturday of each month. Reservations must be made in advance.

The Visitor Center closed in September 2009 with many displays shifted to the Great Lakes Science Center, and new ones created there. This move was done to reduce the public relations budget and to provide easier access to the general public, especially the under-served community. It was hoped that putting the displays at the much more visited science center will bring the NASA Glenn facility more public exposure. In fact, this proved true: compared to the 60,000 visitors per year at its former site, the Glenn Visitor Center enjoyed 330,000 visitors in the first year at the Great Lakes Science Center. The new display area at the science center is referred to as the Glenn Visitor Center.

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