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NASA Glenn's Historical Timeline
1940s - The Beginning

The site of the National Air Races in Cleveland is transformed into a World-Class aircraft engine research laboratory and quickly makes contributions to the war effort.

Groundbreaking ceremony photoGround breaking ceremony. Credit: NASA 1940 - Cleveland chosen as location for a new NACA laboratory.
1941 - On January 23, NACA breaks ground on the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory (AERL).
1942 - E. Raymond Sharp named first manager of the lab. Research begins on May 8 as Lewis research helps improve the engines of U.S. fighter planes during World War II.
1943 - Langley Power Plants Division completes its move to Cleveland, and the NACA Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory is officially dedicated.
1944 - First test is performed in the Altitude Wind Tunnel with a jet engine. The Icing Research Tunnel is completed. And Lewis improves the cooling ability of the B-29 Superfortress engine, a bomber integral to America's war plans in the Pacific.
1948 - George Lewis dies; Lab name changed to NACA Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory.
1949 - 8x6 Supersonic Wind Tunnel completed.

1950s - Jet Propulsion

The Center's focus changes from piston engines to jet propulsion and pioneering rocket engine and propellant research.

1950 - A newly designed spray system in the Icing Research Tunnel creates real-world test conditions.
1953 - Lewis conducts full-scale crash tests on twin-engine cargo planes. Motion picture films of the crashes contribute to an understanding of aircraft (and eventually spacecraft) safety.
1954 - Liquid hydrogen/fluorine regeneratively cooled rocket engine developed at Lewis.
1955 - Neil Armstrong begins his career at Lewis as a NACA test pilot. And the 10x10 Supersonic Wind Tunnel was completed.
1957 - A Mecury escape capsule is tested in the Altitude Wind Tunnel. And the Rocket Engine Test Facility is completed.
1958 - Lewis Lab renamed Lewis Research Center (LeRC) as it becomes part of the newly established NASA and begins making major contributions to manned space flight.

1960s - Manned Space Flight

Lewis helps perfect the use of liquid hydrogen rocket fuel and makes major contributions to the Mercury and Apollo programs.

Astronaut on moonAn Apollo astronaut on the moon. Credit: NASA 1960 - Mercury Astronauts train at Lewis' Multiple Axis Space Test Inertia Facility (MASTIF) to learn how to control tumbling spacecraft. The Mercury astronauts, such as Ohio's own John Glenn trained there.
1961 - Abe Silverstein named Center Director. Electric Propulsion Laboratory completed.
1962 - On February 20, Ohio astronaut John Glenn orbits the Earth in Friendship 7 launched by an Atlas-6 rocket. Glenn, the first of Ohio's astronauts, was the first American to orbit Earth.
1962 - Centaur and Agena programs transferred to Lewis. These upper-stage boosters are to be used to launch planetary and lunar probes, and they're paving the way for a manned flight to the moon. The Nuclear Research Reactor Facility begins operating.
1963 - Lewis manages first successful launch of Centaur rocket (AC-2) on November 27. NASA acquires Plum Brook Station from the Army.
1964 - Space Electric Rocket Test (SERT) proves electron-bombardment ion thruster design.
1966 - Zero Gravity Facility completed.
1969 - On July 20, Apollo 11 lands first man on the moon; at the controls is Ohio astronaut Neil Armstrong. NASA Lewis takes pride in its contributions. Bruce T. Lundin is named Center Director. And the Space Power Facility is completed.

1970s - Quiet Engines and Loud Rockets

Lewis research begins to refocus on aircraft engines. Projects include the Quiet Engine Program and the Integrated Propulsion Control System. Despite cutbacks, Lewis continues to develop space applications like the Titan/Centaur rocket as well as technology and testing for the new space shuttle.

1971 - Depressed collector traveling wave tube invented.
1972 - Launch (AC-27) of Pioneer 10, the first man-made object to leave the solar system and travel on a flight path into interstellar space. Over 700 layoffs among the Lewis space research staff.
1973 - The Nuclear Research Reactor Facility is closed.
1974 - Proof flight of Titan/Centaur (TC-1). During the decade, Titan/Centaurs go on to launch Viking and Voyager missions to Mars and outer planets.
1976 - The Communications Technology Satellite (CTS, also called Hermes) is launched on January 17, 1976. A joint project between the Canadian Department of Communications and NASA, the synchronous satellite carried a 200 Watt TWT amplifier and operated at 14 up/12 down GHz.
1978 - John F. McCarthy named Center Director.

1980s - The Shuttle Era Begins

NASA Lewis goes for major roles in mainstream programs. Research stresses the upper-stage propulsion system for the space shuttle, called the Shuttle/Centaur. Lewis engineers begin development of the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS).

1980 - Research and Analysis Center completed.
1981 - First space shuttle launched using technology developed by Lewis
1982 - Andrew J. Stofan named Director; later aquires responsibility for Work Package 4 for Space Station Freedom, the complete electrical power system.
1986 - John M. Klineberg named Center Director. Shuttle/Centaur project is cancelled within months of launching the Galileo spacecraft to Jupiter after the Challenger accident.
1987 - NASA Lewis and the Advanced Turboprop Program team win the prestigious Collier Trophy for the for the development of a new fuel-efficient turboprop propulsion system.
1988 - LeRC team wins Emmy award for technical achievement during the Communications Technology Satellite Program.
1989 - Power Systems Facility completed.

1990s - A New Name

Ongoing work leads the way in both aeronautics and aerospace, including aeropropulsion, space power and space propulsion. Lewis assumes a lead role in the microgravity program as the Program Manager for Fluid Physics and Combustion Microgravity Research.

1990 - Lawrence J. Ross named Center Director. AC-69/CRRES launch begins Lewis' management responsibility for commercial services for intermediate and large unmanned launch vehicles.
1992 - STS-50/USML-1 mission puts Lewis in forefront of Microgravity Science; highlighted by the Surface Tension Driven Convection Experiment, which was built in house. Space Station program restructuring transfers construction of Lewis-designed electric power system to Johnson Space Center.
1993 - The Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS) is launched from the shuttle Discovery (mission STS-51). The satellite is controlled from the ground station at Lewis.
1994 - Donald J. Campbell named Center Director. Russian launch of Progress 224 takes Lewis' SAMS unit to the Mir Space Station.
1995 - The greatest attention for Ohio's astronauts came with the STS-70 mission in 1995. Four crew members (Nancy Currie, Tom Henricks, Don Thomas and Mary Ellen Weber) out of a five-member crew have hometowns in Ohio. The fifth crew member, Kevin Kregel, was made an Honorary Ohio citizen by Governor George Voinovich who attended the launch. Two other shuttle missions occurred in 1995:
  • In October, STS-73/USML-2 reinforces Lewis' leadership in Microgravity Science; seven experiments from Lewis keep the shuttle crew busy 24 hours a day.
  • In November, the Lewis-managed Mir Cooperative Solar Array (MCSA) was delivered to Russian space station by Shuttle Atlantis (STS-74); deployment was accomplished on May 25, 1996.
1997 - NASA Lewis contributes three experiments to the Mars Pathfinder mission, which lands on July 4, 1997. Successful landing is made possible by testing of the air bags at Lewis Plum Brook Station. NASA Lewis' Microgravity Science Lab-1 (MSL-1) launches aboard the shuttle. And NASA Lewis manages the launch services for the Cassini mission to Saturn on October 15, 1997. Lewis also provides critical electronic components.
1998 - NASA Lewis transfers Launch Vehicles program to NASA KSC on September 30, 1998. Lewis provides ion propulsion system and solar concentrator arrays for NASA's Deep Space 1 mission, which launched on October 24, 1998. John Glenn returns to orbit on mission STS-95 aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
1999 - On March 1, NASA Lewis renamed John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field. On May 7, official Center name change festivities were held with John Glenn in attendance.