National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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Events Timeline

Plum Brook Ordnance Works

Plum Brook Mothballed

Plum Brook Groundbreaking

B-1 Construction

B-1 Test Stand

Kiwi Reactor

Centaur Rocket

Apollo 12 astronaut views Surveyor rover

NERVA Program

Spacecraft Propulsion Research Facility (B-2)

Centaur Shroud Tests

B-1 and B-3 Stands Rusting

B-3 Demolition

1941
War Department seizes property for Plum Brook Ordnance Works (PBOW)
The NACA begins construction of its Aircraft Engine Research Lab

1943
AERL officially begins operations

1945
PBOW closes down after producing record amounts of ammunition

1946
Matthew-Lavio and Sons oversees idle Plum Brook property

1947
Rocket Lab complex begins operation at the AERL

1949
Plum Brook property transferred to General Services Administration
Lewis research divisions reorganized under Abe Silverstein

1954
Ravenna Arsenal utilizes portions of Plum Brook until 1958

1955
Congress approves funding for NACA test reactor at Plum Brook
Air Force and Atomic Energy Commission begin Project Rover
Rocketdyne and Aerojet begin design work on turbojets
Project Bee commences

1956
Groundbreaking ceremony for Plum Brook Reactor in September

1957
Project Bee aircraft performs liquid-hydrogen powered flights
Lewis researchers begin work on tungsten reactor
Sputnik is launched on October 4
General Dynamics begins design of the Centaur second-stage rocket

1958
Lewis acquires additional 500 acres at Plum Brook for B-1 and Pilot Lab
AEC approves Rocketdyne axial-flow turbopump
NASA is officially founded on October 1
Construction of I-Site begins in December 1958

1959
First low-power test of the Kiwi-A reactor on July 1
Abe Silverstein-led committee recommend high-energy fuels for upper-stages
NASA requests additional 3500 acres at Plum Brook from the Army for additional sites
NASA replaces Air Force in the Rover program in December

1960
Architects complete drawings for B-1 test stand in March
B-1 construction underway
First full-scale Kiwi-A reactor test conducted on July 8
Space Nuclear Propulsion Office (SNPO) created on August 31
NASA-AEC issue request for bids on NERVA nuclear rocket

1961
Steam accumulators arrive at B sites in April
President Kennedy delivers his Urgent National Needs address on May 25
Aerojet-Westinghouse NERVA proposal accepted in June
Modifications begin in July to prepare B-1 stand for NERVA testing
Four rocket sites and control building operational in the fall
Abe Silverstein named Director of Lewis Research Center in October
Kiwi-B1 run on gaseous hydrogen during December test in Nevada

1962
NERVA test program for B-1 formalized in February
Plum Brook’s E Stand begins testing in February; I Site and J Site soon begin operation
Alan “Hap” Johnson named Plum Brook director in March
Congress approves $40 million in May for B-3 stand, vacuum chamber, and B-2 expansion
Surveyor program substitutes Centaur for Agena rocket
First attempt to launch an Atlas-Centaur rocket fails on May 8
Centaur Program transferred from Marshall to Lewis in September
Lockheed Martin designs Titan III booster
Kiwi-B4-A test in Nevada Test Site fails in November
President Kennedy tours Nevada Test Site on December 8

1963
Architects complete B-3 drawings and excavations begin in March
Remainder of Plum Brook property transferred to NASA in March
Hundreds of PBOW structures razed
Mark IX reactor installed in B-1 test stand during April
B-1 facility checkout tests run throughout the fall
B-3 facility complete
Second attempt at Atlas-Centaur vehicle successful in November

1964
Engineering Bldg, ATS, B-2, B-3 under construction
Kiwi-B4 reactor design tested at Nevada in July
First NERVA test conducted in B-1 in September 1964
NERVA NRX-A2 engine run successfully in September at Nevada
NERVA NRX-A2 bootstrap test in October in Nevada.

1965
NERVA test equipment moved from B-1 to B-3 in May
NASA budget peaks during 1965

1966
A reheater system was added in February
First test runs in B-3 conducted in March
Atlas-Centaur 8 successfully completes two-burn launch in April
Atlas-Centaur sends Surveyor spacecraft to lunar surface on June 2

1967

1968

1969
Final test conducted at B-1 on May 28
Abe Silverstein retires and is replaced by Bruce Lundin
Six month period of inactivity at B-1 and B-3 begins in June
NERVA XE engine tested in June at Nevada

1970
B-2 and Space Power Facility begin operations

1971
B-3 setup begins in January for Centaur shroud tests
NERVA redesigned as smaller rocket engine

1972
Space shuttle program approved by President Nixon in January
NASA FY1973 budget submitted in September without NERVA
Apollo 17 mission in December is final Apollo flight

1973
Lundin announces on January 6 that Plum Brook would shut down
NERVA nuclear rocket program cancelled in January
B-3 commences preparations for Centaur Standard Shroud testing in January
B-1 mothballed and put into readiness status Category 1

1974
Final test conducted at B-3 in May
B-3 mothballed and put into readiness status Category 1

1977
Cannibalization of B-3 underway

1982
B-1 and B-3 readiness status reduced to Category 3

1987
Plum Brook begins reactivating its large test facilities

1998
Demolition of Plum Brook Reactor Facility commences

2004
NASA offers centers funding to remove unused facilities

2009
Historical documentation of the B-1 and B-3 stands begun in October

2010
B-1 and B-3 stands demolished on September 8 and 22, respectively