ROCKET LAB MAY BENEFIT FROM RENEWED INTEREST IN MISSILES EDWARDS FACILITY HAS BEEN INVOLVED IN MOST MAJOR PROPULSION PROJECTS.Byline: Jim Skeen Staff Writer
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE Edwards Air Force Base, U.S. military installation, 301,000 acres (121,805 hectares), S Calif., NE of Lancaster; est. 1933. It is one of the largest air force bases in the United States and has the world's longest runway. - For more than 50 years, Edwards Air Force Base's rocket laboratory has helped develop rocket engines for launching nuclear warheads as well as putting men on the moon.
Established in 1947 on rocky Luehman Ridge overlooking Rogers Dry Lake, the rocket laboratory has developed engines for such rockets as the Atlas, which powered the Mercury space flights; the Minuteman missile Minuteman missile
U.S. ICBM first deployed in 1962. Its three generations—the Minuteman I (1962–73), the Minuteman II (1966–95), and the Minuteman III (from 1970)—have constituted most of the land-based nuclear arsenal of the U.S. since the 1960s. ; and the Saturn that powered the Apollo moon missions.
``This is a vital part of American air power and space power,'' said Air Force Maj. Gen. Doug Pearson, Edwards' commander.
The lab, like the rest of the U.S. military, weathered a series of defense cutbacks during the 1990s. More troubling for military rocket people was the rising belief in Pentagon circles that private industry should take the lead in rocket propulsion Rocket propulsion
The process of imparting a force to a flying vehicle, such as a missile or a spacecraft, by the momentum of ejected matter. This matter, called propellant, is stored in the vehicle and ejected at high velocity. development.
``It was thought the commercial sector would take over propulsion development,'' said Wesley Cox, a former Air Force colonel who led the rocket lab until his retirement on Aug. 2. ``That didn't materialize to the extent they thought.''
Now there is a growing interest in the military for a quick, low-cost way to put satellites or other things into space. The Bush administration wants to build a space-based missile defense system Noun 1. missile defense system - naval weaponry providing a defense system
missile defence system
naval weaponry - weaponry for warships and there is interest in a ``space bomber Space Bomber is a shoot 'em up arcade game released in 1998 by Japanese company Psikyo. ,'' an aerospace craft capable of reaching anywhere in the world in 30 minutes.
What this push for space access means for the laboratory remains to be seen.
The laboratory's new commander, Lt. Col. Joseph Boyle, said one of his first tasks will be to start visiting potential customers, such as the Air Force Space Command and the Ballistic Defense Missile Organization, and find out exactly what technologies they are interested in seeing developed.
``I want to understand what those folks need,'' Boyle said. ``I want to reconnect with our customers.''
The rocket lab has been known by a variety of official titles over the years, the Years, The
the seven decades of Eleanor Pargiter’s life. [Br. Lit.: Benét, 1109]
See : Time latest being Air Force Research Laboratory - Propulsion Directorate.
However, to longtime Antelope Valley This article is about the Los Angeles County region. For the census-designated place in Wyoming, see Antelope Valley-Crestview, Wyoming.
The Antelope Valley residents and rocket enthusiasts, the facilities are known as the ``the rocket site,'' ``the rocket lab'' or simply ``the rock.''
While the exploits of the aircraft testing at Edwards - like Chuck Yeager This page is currently protected from editing until disputes have been resolved. breaking the sound barrier in 1947, W.J. ``Pete'' Knight setting an X-15 speed record in 1967, or tests of the B-2 stealth bomber and other planes - are well-documented, the achievements of the rocket lab are little known outside the rocket world.
Former Secretary of the Air Force Sheila Widnall Sheila Evans Widnall is an American aerospace researcher and Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She served as United States Secretary of the Air Force between 1993 and 1997, making her the first woman to lead an entire branch of the US military in once referred to the rocket lab as ``the quiet part of the Edwards saga.''
Among the lab's little-known historic events were the first launches of the Minuteman missile. The missiles were actually launched only to short altitudes and were brought crashing back to Earth by nylon tethers.
The rocket site covers more than 65 square miles A square mil is a unit of area, equal to the area of a square with sides of length one mil. A mil is one thousandth of an international inch. This unit of area is usually used in specifying the area of the cross section of a wire or cable. and has facilities that its officials say would cost more than $3.1 billion if the government had to build them over again. It contains two-thirds of the nation's rocket test stands strong enough to hold high-thrust engines.
``Ninety percent or more of a rocket is the propulsion system Noun 1. propulsion system - a system that provides a propelling or driving force
system - instrumentality that combines interrelated interacting artifacts designed to work as a coherent entity; "he bought a new stereo system"; "the system consists of a motor and a and propellant pro·pel·lant also pro·pel·lent
1. Something, such as an explosive charge or a rocket fuel, that propels or provides thrust.
2. ,'' said lab spokesman Ranney Adams. ``Ten percent, if you're lucky, goes to the payload (1) Refers to the "actual data" in a packet or file minus all headers attached for transport and minus all descriptive meta-data. In a network packet, headers are appended to the payload for transport and then discarded at their destination. . Anything we can do to increase the payload is of great benefit for the nation.''
The lab recently assisted Boeing's Rocketdyne division test its 14,500- pound RS-68 rocket. The engine, capable of generating 650,000 pounds of thrust, will be used on Delta IV rockets The Delta IV is a family of Delta rockets designed by Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems division and built in United Launch Alliance's facility in Decatur, Alabama with final assembly at the launch site by United Launch Alliance. to take satellites into space.
One lab project is to improve a space propulsion system called a Hall thruster, which converts electric energy into thrust for moving objects in outer space.
The thruster was introduced in the 1960s and later advanced by the former Soviet Union. The problem with it is the wear-and-tear on certain components.
``The Air Force has payloads it wants to get into a high orbit,'' said William Hargus, a scientist at the laboratory. ``The Hall thrusters would be part of a satellite upper stage.''
Another project is the development of a small thruster for use on microsatellites, satellites weighing less than 220 pounds.
The thruster is expected to see use in 2003 in an experiment called Technology Satellite of the 21st Century, or TechSat 21 for short. The experiment is aimed proving small satellites flying in formations can replace large, single satellites.
Such microsatellites would be cheaper to launch into space, be able to readily change missions, and more durable than today's larger satellites.
The rocket site has about 600 workers at any given time, about 250 of whom are military and Defense Department civilians. The others work for private companies.
One of the issues for the laboratory, like the rest of the Air Force, is attracting engineers. About 30 percent of the lab's engineering and scientific slots are open.
``That's a major challenge right now - finding engineers and convincing them that this a great place to be,'' Boyle said.
(1 -- color) Research engineer Bill Hargus examines a Hall thruster, which converts electric energy into thrust, at the rocket lab.
(2) Test Stand 1A juts out over the High Desert at the rocket propulsion research lab at Edwards Air Force Base.
Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer