National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

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Photograph of researcher pointing to photographs of new facilities.
New Plum Brook Facilities
The NASA Glenn Research Center (which has had several names, including the Lewis Research Center) has been a leader in rocket propulsion since the 1940s. In the 1950s the center was at the vanguard of developing high-energy fuels such as liquid hydrogen for rocket engines. With the advent of the national space program in the late 1950s the Center established the Plum Brook Station to build several large test facilities. The center was heavily involved with the development of a nuclear rocket engine and the Centaur second-stage vehicle in the 1960s.

Read more about the history of B-1 and B-3:
I. Design and Construction:
NASA Lewis expanded its holdings at Plum Brook in the late 1950s to build a series of rocket testing facilities. Construction of B-1 began in 1960, and it was operational by 1964. B-3 was built between 1963 and 1965. The test stands were part of a large complex of test sites.
II. NERVA Engine Testing:
Both facilities studied the Mark IX turbopump for the NERVA nuclear engine. The tests focused on the engine’s ability to restart itself on long-duration space missions.
III. Centaur Rocket Systems:
The test stands were used to study the propellant feed system and shroud jettison system for the Centaur D second-stage rocket. The tests were important to the success of the Viking missions to Mars.
IV. Shutdown and Demolition
Plum Brook Station was shutdown during 1973 and 1974. Some facilities were temporarily mothballed, but others, including B-1 and B-3, would never be utilized again. The test stands were demolished in 2010.
Photograph of crane lifting B-1 steam ejector into place
Ejector Construction
Photograph of control panels in the B Control Building
B-1 Control Room
Photograph of rusting B-1 test stand in overgrown area
B-1 in 2007