The Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility opened for business in 2007 at the former Rockwell International/North American Aircraft production facility in Palmdale. The Los Angeles World Airports Board of Airport Commissioners endorsed a 20-year lease agreement with NASA for use of a large hangar and surrounding acreage at the facility adjacent to U.S. Air Force Plant 42.
Specialized science platform aircraft, such as the DC-8 flying laboratory and the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, are based at the Palmdale facility. Dryden officials plan to house the center's two high-altitude research aircraft ER-2s, civil versions of the military U-2s, and two Gulfstream IIIs at the DAOF.
When the facility is renovated for use in science missions, it is estimated about 250 Dryden civil service and contractor staff will be based there. In addition, visiting scientists from around the world will be based at the site while experiments or missions are in progress.
NASA leases building 703, one of five major buildings on the site, and about 16.2 acres as an aircraft operations facility to support science programs. NASA will invest about $10.5 million in facility modifications and upgrades and about $1.4 million per year for the lease. LAWA has agreed to invest about $4 million.
Building 703 contains about 422,000 square feet of floor space, including 210,000 square feet in the central hangar area and an equivalent amount of office space on four floors.