NASA held a ceremonial ground-breaking event Monday at the site of its state-of-the-art Propulsion Research Laboratory. The facility will play a key role in NASA's efforts to develop propulsion technologies to send future missions to the edges of the solar system — and, eventually, beyond it.
The Propulsion Research Laboratory -- part of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center -- will be housed on a 21-acre site on Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala. It will be occupied primarily by propulsion scientists and technologists from the Marshall Center's existing Propulsion Research Center.
"This world-class facility sets the stage for propulsion research that will utterly revolutionize space travel as we know it," said Marshall Center Director Art Stephenson, who was expected to share earth-turning duties at the ceremony with U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama and U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer of Alabama's 5th Congressional District. "Scientific exploration of our solar system and the galaxy beyond can no longer afford to be delayed by the limitations of conventional propulsion technologies," Stephenson added.
"Today, we turn over the first sods of earth for construction," said Dr. Stephen L. Rodgers, manager of the Propulsion Research Center. "In very short order, we will turn over the conventions of modern space travel as we know it, and rewrite the textbook on how future deep-space missions are flown."
The 108,000-square-foot facility will provide office and laboratory space for propulsion research and small-scale experiments supporting cheaper, more efficient and safer access to space. Studies will be conducted in a number of fields, including solar energy, advanced chemical propulsion technologies, and processes based on fission, fusion and antimatter. Construction is expected to be completed in April 2004.
The facility's site was a natural choice, Rodgers said, given the Marshall Center's existing, world-class, propulsion-study resources, as well as Marshall's partnership with the National Space Science and Technology Center. The NSSTC, a Huntsville-based clearinghouse for cutting-edge space science and propulsion research, was founded by the Marshall Center, along with local, state and national university partners and other federal agencies. It has been in operation since 2001.
For more information about the new Propulsion Research Laboratory, see the Ppropulsion Research Lab fact sheet.
For more information about NASA's space transportation and propulsion research, visit:
Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., is a key leader in NASA's development of space transportation and propulsion systems and advanced large optics manufacturing technology, as well as microgravity research -- scientific investigations in the unique low-gravity environment aboard the International Space Station and other spacecraft.
The Marshall Center is responsible for developing advanced space transportation systems while slashing the cost of getting there from today's $10,000 per pound to just hundreds of dollars per pound. The Marshall Center is working to bring a future among the stars closer to reality for the people of Earth.
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