The Plum Brook field trip began with a 8:45 a.m. departure in a school bus from the Glenn Research Center. We arrived at Plum Brook around 10 a.m. Plum Brook is in Sandusky, 50 miles west of Cleveland. The tour session began with a ten minute video, “Where Space Comes Down to Earth.” The video provided a good overview of what the Plum Brook station specializes in.
Most of Plum Brook’s 6400 acres area is undeveloped. The testing facilities are located far away from one other. Plum Brook has the world’s largest Space Simulation Chamber. Some of the crucial testing for new rocket engine designs is done here, including the engine testing in Cyrogenic Test Cells where the engines are exposed to temperatures as cold as in space. The Apollo Fuel Propellant tests and the International Space Station (ISS) radiation tests were also done at Plum Brook.
We toured the B-2 facility, the Spacecraft Propulsion Research Facility. This is where the world’s largest space simulation and Rocket Engine Test stands are. Most of this facility is underground. We got to see some of it through what looked like a drop tower. The B-2 facility has the world’s third largest vacuum chamber. The last big testing done here was in 1998. Additionally, we went and saw the Space Power Testing Facility, a large chamber with aluminum walls and heavy concrete structures around it. The huge chamber can be pumped to a near vacuum, where tests such as fairing separations can be performed.