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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

NASA JOHN H. GLENN RESEARCH CENTER AT LEWIS FIELD

NASA JOHN H. GLENN RESEARCH CENTER AT LEWIS FIELD

The NASA JOHN H. GLENN RESEARCH CENTER AT LEWIS FIELD, a major component in the U.S. aerospace program, was established in Cleveland in 1941 as a laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), an institution responsible for encouraging the growth of American aviation through government research. Built at the western end of the Municipal Airport (renamed CLEVELAND-HOPKINS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT in 1951), NACA's Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory contributed to the solution of engine-cooling problems on the Super Fortress (B-29) and conducted research on aviation fuels and icing problems during World War II. When the Altitude Wind Tunnel was completed in 1944, it was considered the most advanced facility of its kind in the world. After the turbojet engine was developed in England and Germany, the tunnel was used for early testing of American-built jet engines, particularly those produced by GENERAL ELECTRIC and WESTINGHOUSE ELECTRIC. NACA renamed the facility Flight Propulsion Research Laboratory in 1947 and once more Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in honor of the late George Lewis, NACA's Director of Aeronautical Research in 1948. Throughout the 1950s, the laboratory did fundamental research in supersonic aerodynamics, particularly in relation to the flow of air into and through the turbojet engine.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), established by a legislative act in 1958, absorbed the NACA. The Cleveland-based facility became the NASA Lewis Research Center, helping to perfect the use of liquid hydrogen rocket fuel and playing an active role in the Mercury and Apollo programs. In October 1958, development work on upper-stage launch vehicles was the center's most important contribution to the effort to land a man on the moon. In the 1980s, Lewis Research Center was a leader in the development of the power system for a proposed space station, and in 1988 Lewis and the Argonne National Laboratory agreed to begin joint research on high-temperature superconductivity (HTS) materials and technology for space and aeronautical applications.

In 1999, the Lewis Research Center was renamed NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in honor of Ohio Senator John H. Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit Earth. Distinguished by its unique blend of aeronautics and spaceflight experience, the Glenn Research Center has focused on technological advancement in spaceflight systems development, aeropropulsion, space propulsion, power systems, nuclear systems, communications and human research. The main campus is situated on 350 acres and includes more than 140 buildings and over 500 specialized research and test facilities. The Center also operates the Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, OH, which provides world-class facilities for space technology and capability development. In 2009, the Glenn Research Center employed more than 3,000 civil service employees and support service contractor personnel, with more than half of the workforce composed of scientists and engineers. As of 2009, the budget of the center stood at $580.1 million and Dr. Woodrow Whitlow, Jr. served as the director.