Glenn Research Center

Glenn Research Center

NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field

Aerial view of Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field
Agency overview
Formed 1942
Preceding agencies
  • Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory
  • NASA Lewis Research Center
Jurisdiction Federal government of the United States
Headquarters Brook Park, Ohio, U.S.
Agency executive
  • James M. Free, director
Parent agency NASA
Child agency
  • Plum Brook Station
Website Glenn Center home page

NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field is a NASA center, located within the cities of Brook Park, Cleveland, and Fairview Park, Ohio[1] between Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and the Cleveland Metroparks's Rocky River Reservation, with a subsidiary facility in Sandusky, Ohio. Its director is James M. Free. Glenn Research Center is one of ten major NASA field centers, whose primary mission is to develop science and technology for use in aeronautics and space. As of May 2012, it employed about 1,650 civil servants and 1,850 support contractors located on or near its site.

In 2010, the formerly on-site NASA Visitors Center moved to the Great Lakes Science Center.


  • History 1
  • Facilities 2
    • Plum Brook Station (PBS) 2.1
      • Spacecraft Propulsion Facility (SPF) 2.1.1
    • Icing tunnel 2.2
    • Zero Gravity Research Facility 2.3
  • Significant developments 3
  • Significant contributions 4
  • Future of Glenn 5
  • NASA Glenn Visitor Center 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The installation was established in 1942 as part of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and was later incorporated into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a laboratory for aircraft engine research.

It was initially named the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory after funding approval was given in June 1940. It was renamed the Flight Propulsion Research Laboratory in 1947, the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in 1948 (after NACA from 1919 to 1947) and the NASA Lewis Research Center in 1958.

On March 1, 1999, the Lewis Research Center was officially renamed the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field after John Glenn (American fighter pilot, astronaut and politician). Within NASA, Glenn is often referred to by the acronym GRC.

As early as 1951, researchers at the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory were studying the combustion processes in liquid rocket engines.[2]


Plum Brook Station (PBS)

GRC Plum Brook Station Spacecraft Propulsion Facility (B-2)

The 6,400-acre (2,600 ha) Plum Brook field station near Sandusky, Ohio is also part of Glenn. It is located about 50 mi. from the main campus. It specializes in very large-scale tests which would be hazardous within the confines of the main campus.[3]

As of 2015 the Plum Brook Station consists of five major facilities:[4][5]

  • Spacecraft Propulsion Facility (SPF)
  • B-2 Spacecraft Propulsion Research Facility (B-2), as of 2015 not fully functional
  • Combined Effects Chamber, as of 2015 unusable
  • Hypersonic Test Facility (HTF)
  • Cryogenic Components Laboratory (CCL), as of 2015 slated for demolition

The Plum Brook Reactor Facility was decontaminated and decommissioned at an estimated cost $33.5 million, following a 2008 decision.[6]

Spacecraft Propulsion Facility (SPF)

The Spacecraft Propulsion Facility (SPF) at Plum Brook Station (PBS) is the world's only facility capable of testing full-scale upper-stage launch vehicles and rocket engines under simulated high-altitude conditions. The Space Power Facility houses the world's largest space environment vacuum chamber.[7]

Icing tunnel

An icing tunnel is capable of simulating atmospheric icing condition to test the effect of ice accretion on aircraft wings and body as well as to test anti-icing systems for aircraft.

Zero Gravity Research Facility

The Zero Gravity Research Facility is a vertical vacuum chamber used for microgravity experiments. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985. The facility uses vertical drop tests in a vacuum chamber to investigate the behavior of components, systems, liquids, gases, and combustion in such circumstances.

The facility consists of a concrete-lined shaft, 28 feet (8.5 m) in diameter, that extends 510 feet (160 m) below ground level. An aluminum vacuum chamber, 20 feet (6.1 m) in diameter and 470 feet (140 m) high, is contained within the concrete shaft. The pressure in this vacuum chamber is reduced to 13.3 newtons per square meter (1.3×104atm) before use.

After the closing of the Japan Microgravity Centre (JAMIC), the NASA Zero-G facility is the largest microgravity facility in the world.

Another, smaller drop tower remains in use. That tower has a free fall time of 2.2 seconds, and the Dropping In Microgravity Environment (DIME) program is conducted there.

Significant developments

Aeronautics science and technology

NASA Glenn does significant research and technology development on jet engines, producing designs that reduce energy consumption, pollution and noise. The chevrons it invented for noise reduction appear on many commercial jet engines today, including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Space science and technology

The Glenn Research Center, along with its partners in industry, are credited with the following:

Significant contributions


Glenn Research Center is home to the LERCIP (Lewis' Educational and Research Collaborative Internship Program) program.[10] It provides internships for high school students, college students, and high school teachers. The high school program is an 8 week internship for sophomores and juniors with interests in science, technology, engineering, math, or professional administration. The college level consists of a 10 week internship and is open to college students at all levels, from graduating high school seniors to PhD candidates. Only residents of the Cleveland area are eligible for high school LERCIP, but college LERCIP is open to students nationwide. Interns work closely with their NASA mentors and are involved in the day-to-day activities of the Center. They are expected to be available to work 40 hours a week for the duration of the internship. Pay is given biweekly, and is determined by academic level for college students. The LERCIP Teacher program is a 10 week internship for educators in STEM fields.


Dropping In Microgravity Environment (DIME) is a contest held yearly by the center. Teams of high school students write proposals for experiments to be performed in the Drop Tower. The winners travel to the Center, perform their experiments, and submit a research report to NASA.

Future of Glenn

After 2004, NASA had been shifting its focus towards space exploration as mandated by the Vision for Space Exploration. Because of this, it was perceived by some that regional NASA centers like Glenn, which focus on research and technology, were becoming more and more marginalized in terms of resources and relevance.[11] However, on May 13, 2006, it was announced that NASA Glenn Research Center had secured management of the Crew Exploration Vehicle's service module, which promised to generate billions of dollars and hundreds of jobs for the center. This work secured the center's future in the near term, and signalled a shift in priority for the center from aeronautical research to space exploration, aligning itself closer with NASA's new mission.

Another change of direction created uncertainty in 2010, however, when President Obama and Congress declared the end of the Vision for Space Exploration and sought to chart a new course for human space flight and NASA. Nonetheless, at the present time, NASA Glenn's future remains assured with a combination of aeronautics research, advanced technology and spaceflight hardware development. Although the Obama administration has not approved a budget for NASA as of March 2011, the currently proposed budget would actually increase funding to Glenn Research Center by $100 million.[12]

NASA Glenn Visitor Center

The Apollo Command Module of the Skylab 3 mission being moved to the Great Lakes Science Center

The NASA Glenn Visitor Center features six galleries with interactive exhibits about NASA, space exploration, John Glenn and other astronauts, satellites and the solar system. The center also features an auditorium for lectures, movies and special programs, and a gift shop. Admission is free. Adult visitors must be U.S. citizens and present photo identification.

The NASA Glenn Research Center also offers public tours of its research facilities on the first Saturday of each month. Reservations must be made in advance.

The Visitor Center closed in September 2009 with many displays shifted to the Great Lakes Science Center, and new ones created there. This move was done to reduce the public relations budget and to provide easier access to the general public, especially the under-served community. It was hoped that putting the displays at the much more visited science center will bring the NASA Glenn facility more public exposure.[13] In fact, this proved true: compared to the 60,000 visitors per year at its former site, the Glenn Visitor Center enjoyed 330,000 visitors in the first year at the Great Lakes Science Center. The new display area at the science center is referred to as the Glenn Visitor Center.[14]


  1. ^ "Office of Human Capital Management - Current Vacancies". Glenn Research Center. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  2. ^ "NACA TN-2349, Fluctuations in a spray formed by two impinging jets". NACA. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  3. ^ "NASA Glenn Test Facilities". NASA. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  4. ^ GRC - Plum Book Station Facilities -
  5. ^ NASA IG Scrutinizes Seldom-used Plum Brook Test Facilities -
  6. ^ "NASA Awards Reactor Decontamination and Decommission Contract". NASA. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  7. ^ "Plum Brook Station". NASA. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  8. ^ a b [1] Archived October 29, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ " The U.S. Government's Official Web Portal". 2013-09-27. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  10. ^ " The U.S. Government's Official Web Portal". 2013-09-27. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  11. ^ "Northeast Ohio". Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  12. ^ Chuck Soder. "NASA Glenn Research Center to receive budget increase in fiscal 2012 - Cleveland Business News - Northeast Ohio and Cleveland - Crain's Cleveland Business". Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  13. ^ "Cleveland Plain Dealer | Cleveland, Ohio Newspaper". Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  14. ^ "NASA Glenn visitors center offers its exhibits to Great Lakes Science Center". 2009-07-15. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 

External links

  • official Glenn Research Center website
  • NASA Glenn Visitor Center
  • (NASA SP-4306, 1991)Engines and Innovation: Lewis Laboratory and American Propulsion Technology—The whole book, including photos and diagrams in on-line format.