National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Mitigation banner
Other Mitigation Projects
The NASA Glenn History Office has undertaken the task of documenting many of its historic facilities, including the Plum Brook Reactor Facility, Rocket Engine Test Facility, Altitude Wind Tunnel, Propulsion Systems Laboratory No. 1 and 2, and the B-1 and B-3 test stands at Plum Brook. The History Office and Historic Preservation Officer have worked with the Ohio State Historic Preservation Officer to develop strategy to record the history of these facilities that both document the facility and disseminate that information to the public. This documentation includes the collection of documents, photographs, and films; photographic surveys and artistic renderings of the facilities were also created. The information is distilled in several different products including publications, documentaries, exhibit displays, and websites.
Plum Brook Reactor Facility
The Plum Brook Reactor Facility located on Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, operated from 1962-1973, but the history of the land stretches back to the 19th Century when War of 1812 veterans were given the property. The federal government seized 9000 acres of this land in 1941 to construct a sprawling Ordnance Works facility that operated throughout World War II. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics purchased the land in 1956 to build a test reactor to support atomic aircraft studies being conducted by the Atomic Energy Commission. Although that concept was shelved before construction of the reactor was completed, President Kennedy breathed new life into the facility by supporting a national nuclear rocket program in May 1961. The 60 megawatt Plum Brook Reactor conducted over 70 experiments, most of which studied the effects of radiation on various materials. The nation’s nuclear rocket program was cancelled during the post-Apollo budget cuts. The reactor was mothballed in 1973 and was monitored by NASA until decommissioning was begun in 1998.
Rocket Engine Test Facility
The RETF was a National Historic Landmark located at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Throughout most of its 46-year history (1957–2003), the facility played an integral part in the development of NASA rocket technology. This website was designed to preserve the legacy of the RETF.
You can see photographs and videos of RETF and take interactive lessons on rocket engine testing.
You can also learn about the traveling exhibit and how to bring it to a museum in your area.
Altitude Wind Tunnel
When constructed in the early 1940s, the Altitude Wind Tunnel (AWT) was the nation’s only wind tunnel capable of studying full-scale engines under realistic flight conditions. It played a significant role in the development of the first U.S. jet engines as well as technologies such as the afterburner and variable-area nozzle. In the late 1950s, the tunnel's interior components were removed so that hardware for Project Mercury could be tested in altitude conditions. In 1961, a portion of the tunnel was converted into one of the country’s first large vacuum tanks and renamed the Space Power Chambers (SPC). SPC was used extensively throughout the 1960s for the Centaur rocket program.
Propulsion Systems Laboratory No. 1 and 2
When constructed in the early 1940s, the Altitude Wind Tunnel (AWT) was the nation’s only wind tunnel capable of studying full-scale engines under realistic flight conditions. It played a significant role in the development of the first U.S. jet engines as well as technologies such as the afterburner and variable-area nozzle. In the late 1950s, the tunnel's interior components were removed so that hardware for Project Mercury could be tested in altitude conditions. In 1961, a portion of the tunnel was converted into one of the country’s first large vacuum tanks and renamed the Space Power Chambers (SPC). SPC was used extensively throughout the 1960s for the Centaur rocket program.
  • PSL Website: A website dedicated to PSL's history and facility. Includes related documents and reports, an interactive layout, and students' section. Coming soon, photographs and videos.
Screen capture of PSL website
PSL Website
Photograph of interactive museum display with RETF artifacts
RETF Interactive Display
Photograph of book, documentary, and HAER Reports on the Altitude Wind Tunnel
AWT Publications
Photograph of cover for documentary video
Reactor Documentary