Langley Research Center

the Lunar Landing Research Facility,  250 feet high and 400 feet long, started testing equipment in 1965
the Lunar Landing Research Facility, 250 feet high and 400 feet long, started testing equipment in 1965
Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Lunar Landing Testing at NASA Langley

After realizing at the start of World War I that the European nations have developed more-advanced airplane technology, the US Congress created the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in 1915. Though a civilian agency, it immediately developed a close partnership with the Department of the Army and the Department of the Navy, treating them as prime customers for the research.

The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics's priority was aeronautical research. The agency mimicked the successful European approach and established a dedicated research laboratory.

The location chosen in 1920 for the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory was farmland near Hampton. That site had been reccommended by the War Department because it:1

...offered reasonable proximity to Washington headquarters and Virginia industry, a variety of "experimental flying conditions," the promise of an adjacent military airfield, and enough isolation to ensure both safety and security.

The Langley facility focused on applied research, not theoretical science. It built advanced wind tunnels and test equipment that measured new approaches to designing aircraft and missiles.

The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics opened two other laboratories before the United States entered World War II, rather than concentrate all research at Hampton. The Ames Laboratory in California was close to aircraft manufacturers interested in testing new designs. The Lewis Laboratory in Ohio was near factories that designed and maufactures aircraft engines.

in the 1940's, how equipment would behave near the speed of sound (Mach 1) was poorly understood. Some assessment of aerodynamic effects was done in the wind tunnels, but due to shock waves bouncing off the walls the test results were not clear. Researchers needed an Auxiliary Flight Research Station to test missile guidance and propulsion systems outdoors. The Langley engineers ended up choosing Wallops Island, near Chincoteague Naval Air Station.2

Hampton

Joint Base Langley-Eustis

Space: The Final Frontier Starts at Wallops Island

Links

References

1. Harold D. Wallace Jr., Wallops Station and the Creation of an American Space Program, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1997, p.3, https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4311.pdf (last checked November 1, 2020)
2. Harold D. Wallace Jr., Wallops Station and the Creation of an American Space Program, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1997, pp.4-6, https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4311.pdf (last checked November 1, 2020)


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