July 30, 2007
Gary Klann took us through the huge facility where the Propulsion Systems Lab houses its specialized wind tunnels, as well as the lab’s control room. The wind tunnels were hooked up to a retrofitted J57 air heater and a turboexpander to control the temperature so that the tunnels could simulate a range of atmospheric conditions.
The two tunnels can’t run in unison, but having two of them allows the facility to work on setting up one test in one tunnel while another test runs in the other tunnel. A crane system spanned the ceiling of the tunnel housing room, with human-sized hooks to lift big pieces of machinery into and out of the tunnels.
The control room had an inner row of consoles and chairs for observers, such as representatives of the companies having tests done on their prototypes, and more consoles and chairs along the walls for the operators. On one wall console, two broken components had little signs taped to them: “What are you looking at?” and “Don’t look at meeee!”
High on one wall was a red, digital number 4. During a test, the number of the current step in the test procedure would be there. Most tests are done in at night, the same as most high-powered test facilities at Glenn, since the electric supplier gives a price break after a certain time in the evening.
There was some time left after Klann showed us the control room, so he offered to take us around back to see a fuel tank and a couple of jet engines in storage. The ends of the engines were covered with protective cloth, but most of the machinery was visible, so he talked to us briefly about the engines before it was time to leave for our next tour.