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Tearing Down and Building Up
They're two of the most visible signs of the changes taking place at NASA's Langley Research Center.

On the one hand, you've got the partially demolished 60-foot vacuum spheres at building 1267. On the other hand, there's the unfinished skeleton of the Integrated Engineering Services Building.

Demolition and Construction at NASA Langley.
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In the image on the left, one of the 60-foot vacuum spheres at building 1267 is shown in the process of being dismantled. The image on the right shows some the view from the second level of what will become the Integrated Engineering Services Building. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

Both projects are part of the Center's revitalization strategy, which not only includes plans to build six new facilities and renovate critical infrastructure, but also involves the demolition of non-essential assets.

According to Skip Schroeder, facility operations specialist for the Projects and Engineering Branch, the 60-foot vacuum spheres, which currently resemble nothing so much as giant cracked eggs, should be completely dismantled within the next month and a half.

Dating back to the 1960s, the spheres were an important part of a system that allowed NASA scientists to study the performance of thermal protection systems for reentry vehicles.

But the spheres hadn't been in use for quite some time — at least since the 1980s, Schroeder estimates. They're being torn down in a wave of demolition that also includes the Helicopter Test Facility, a satellite dish, hot water piping to building 1159, and interior demolitions at buildings 646 and 1251.

"We're doing real well," said Schroeder. "We have some ambitious goals for demolition to a lot of facilities."

At the opposite end of the spectrum, construction crews are making steady progress on the Integrated Engineering Services Building.

Gary Stergin, Langley's project manager for the facility, points out that steel beams and girders are going up over the construction site, giving added visibility to the project.

"For many weeks and months we were working in the ground, which wasn't as visible," he said.

And although there have been some slight delays to accommodate design modifications made necessary by the decision to move in folks from the Research and Engineering Directorates, Stergin says construction is still pretty much on schedule. He's particularly grateful that the weather has been cooperative, especially now that the end of hurricane season is in sight.

"I feel good," he said. "We've dodged the hurricane bullet."

By: Joe Atkinson

The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
Executive Editor & Responsible NASA Official: Rob Wyman