Impact Dynamics Research Facility

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Facility 1297
2006 Helicopter Aerial Shot

Center: Langley Research Center
Location: Hampton, Virginia
Year Built: 1965
Historic Eligibility: National Historic Landmark
Important Tests: Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), Jet Shoes

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[top] Tours

Virtual Tour of Facility

Watch the Construction of the LandIR Hydro Impact Basin

[top] History

When President John F. Kennedy confidently predicted in 1961 that the United States would land a man on the Moon by the end of the decade, the task of implementing what seemed to be a wildly ambitious goal fell to the engineers of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The success of the chosen lunar-orbit rendezvous (LOR) strategy ultimately depended on whether the astronauts could learn to safely land the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) on the Moon’s surface and return into orbit to dock with the mother ship. A major obstacle in designing a training procedure, however, was that the LEM would handle far differently in the Moon’s atmosphere, with 1/6th the gravitational pull of Earth’s. The problem thus became how to reproduce the operation of the LEM in a low gravitational environment. The solution was conceived as an erector set model in the home workshop of W. Hewitt Phillips (see autobiography of W. Hewitt Phillips). The solution came in the form of the Lunar Lander Research Facility (LLRF), a training simulator that allowed NASA engineers to study the complex lunar landing process and give the Apollo astronauts critical hands-on pilot training in the LEM. Completed in 1965 at a cost of $3.5 million, the most obvious feature of the LLRF was its enormous gantry, an A-frame steel structure measuring 400 feet long by 240 feet high. The LLRF simulated lunar gravity on the LEM through an overhead partial-suspension system that counteracted all but 1/6th of the Earth’s gravitational force, and allowed the vehicle to fly unobstructed within a relatively large area. The LLRF also was used as a lunar-walking simulator, with subjects walking on inclined planes while suspended by a system of slings and cables.

Until the end of the Apollo program in 1972, the LLRF was used to train 24 astronauts for lunar missions, including Neil Armstrong and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., of Apollo 11, the first men to walk on the Moon. Armstrong offered what was perhaps the greatest tribute to the importance of the LLRF in the success of the Apollo program. When asked what it was like to land on the Moon, he replied: “Like Langley.” (See US Postal Service stamps issued in September 1969 depicting the "First Man on the Moon.")

Although the end of manned lunar missions made the LLRF redundant by the early 1970s, NASA quickly found a new use for this Langley landmark, converting it into a full-scale aircraft crash test facility. Redesignated the Impact Dynamics Research Facility (IDRF), it was used to conduct important research on aircraft and other vehicles between 1974 and 2003. With no foreseen future mission need for the IDRF and with limited funding for maintenance and upkeep of such a large structure, NASA closed the facility in 2003 and it was placed on the list of buildings and structures planned for demolition at LaRC. As luck would have it, with President Bush’s announcement in 2004 of the Vision for Space Exploration, NASA determined that the IDRF could be adaptively re-used to support the Agency’s new Constellation Program.

The facility was re-opened in 2005 to conduct landing tests associated with the development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) named ORION. Ironically, the testing would be remarkably similar to the original purpose of the LLRF – testing of the LEM. The facility was re-named the Landing Impact Research Facility (LandIR) and minor modifications were made to include installation of a new parallel winch system to support full-scale ORION testing, and replacement of an elevator. Since NASA needed the capability to determine if the ORION landing would be via land or water, a more significant modification involved installation of a new hydro-impact basin (splashdown pool) underneath the Gantry. Construction of the hydro-impact basin, which is 115 feet long, 90 feet wide and 20 feet deep, was completed in January 2011. Although the Constellation Program has since been cancelled by President Obama, the LandIR plans to continue performing impact testing since the ORION capsule will still be used to service the International Space Station.

The historical significance of the LLRF and its many contributions to the U.S. space program were formally recognized when the facility was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985. The LEM, designated a national historic landmark in 1986, is on display in the Virginia Air and Space Center/Hampton Roads History Center.

[top] Photos - Gantry

[top] Facility

Location of Buildings1981 Floor Plan1963-04-8 Construction1963-06-20 Construction Progress1963-04-8 Construction1963-08-21 Construction Progress1963 LLRF Construction1963-10 Facility View1964 Facility View from Ground1964-11 Night Photo1972 Bldg 1287View of Control Room1993 Aerial1997 Aerial1997 Aerial1997 Aerial1997 Aerial1997 Aerial1997 Aerial2002 Modification Construction2006 Aerial View from Helicopter20112011More Facility Photos

[top] Man in Space

1964-02-19 Model Test Preparations1965 Reduced Gravity Walking Simulator1965 Reduced Gravity Walking Simulator Preparation1965 Apollo Test1967 POGO Test1967-05-4 POGO Model1967 Lunar landing test of LEM1967 Multiple Exposure Photograph of LEM1967 Multiple Exposure Photograph of LEM1968-03-24 LLRF Vehicle1969 Lunar surface at night1970 View fro top with lunar lander on way down1970 Gantry over the Moon2013 PR PosterMore Photos

[top] Impact Testing

Discussion of Crash Dynamics TestingL-030.jpg1972 Ground View1297 Aerial 1.jpg1297 Aerial 2.jpg1297 Aerial 3.jpg197419741975 Airframe Crash Test, No. 7L-75-6093.jpgL-75-8683.jpg1979-05-8 Drop Test Aerial1979 Airframe Crash Test, No. 171979 Airframe Crash Test, No. 171979 Plane Drop, No. 771999 Helicopter Crash Test1999 Helicopter Crash Test19781979 Airframe Crash Test, No. 171979 Airframe Crash Test, No. 171979 Plane Drop, No. 771979 Plane Drop, No. 771979 Plane Drop, No. 771979 Plane Drop, No. 771981 Test 811983 Crash Dummies197819781999 Helicopter Crash Test2006 Airplane Model2011

[top] Constellation/Orion Program

2011 Construction of PoolIMG 5052.JPG2011 Pool (2 men-top rim and right side)2011 Pool Filled and Ready for Testing2011 Pool Location2011 View From Top20112011201120112011

[top] Historic Marker

1985 Historical Marker1985 Historical Marker1985 Historical Marker1989 Lunar Excursion Module Historical Marker1989 Marker Listing Astronauts Trained at LLRF

[top] Photos - Support Buildings

1968 Bldg 12971972 Bldg 12971984 Bldg 12971972 Bldg 1297A1297A in 20031297A in 20081972 Bldg 1297B1978 Bldg 1297C1981 Bldg 1297G1981

[top] Films

Apollo Testing

1963 Evaluation of a Gravity Simulation Technique for Studies of Man's Self-Locomotion in Lunar Environment

1964: Exploratory Study of Man's Self-Locomotion Capabilities with a Space Suit in Lunar Gravity

1966 Self Locomotion in Earth and Lunar Gravity

1966: Comparative Measurement of Man Walking and Running in Earth and Simulated Lunar Gravity

1968: Study of Man's Capability for Self-Locomotion on the Moon

1976 Full Scale Crash Test of a CH-47C helicopter

1989 Apollo Program Panel Discussion

2007: Laser Scan

Crash Tests of Four Identical High-Wing Single-Engine Airplanes

2007:Constellation Program

2008:History of the Gantry

Apollo 40th Anniversary Presentation

NASA Langley's 50th Anniversary

Lunar Walking

Lunar Landing Training

Aircraft Crash Tests Composite Data Film

2012 A Whale of a Splash

NASA Langley's HydroBasin

[top] Interviews

The Evolution of the Lunar Landing Research Facility (Stewart)

Technological Innovations in the Design of the Lunar landing Research Facility (Stewart)

Lee Person on His Career: July 21, 2010

[top] Documents

Photo Log

1960s Project Sheet

1963 Original Construction Plan of Complex

1964 Field Inspection Talk given at base of structure during the 1964 Field Inspection of Advanced Research and Technology.

1966 Quick Facts on Lunar Landing Research Facility

1966 Technical Facilities Resume

2007 NASA's Gantry: Past, Present and Future Asset to Exploration

1967 One-Man POGO Flying Device Studied at LLRF

Operational Features of the Langley Lunar Landing Research Facility. O'Bryan, Thomas, and [ D.E.Hewes. 1967

1969 Moon Landing Stamps. The Times-Herald. Newport News, VA. 10 September 1969

1969 Times Herald Article: Moon Landing Practice Bears Fruit

1979 A Unique Facility for VSTOL Aircraft Hover Testing

1990 Data Log

1990 Facility Resume

2003 Designing the Lunar Landing Research Facility, Hewitt Phillips

2006 Historic Data, Photos and Drawings

2007 A Bridge to the Future

2007 NASA's Gantry: Past, Present and Future Asset to Exploration

2007 Gantry Reconstruction: Out with the Old and in with the New

2008 NASA's Airbag Drop Tests in Full Swing

2010 Chopper Crash Test a Smash Hit

[top] Apollo and Mercury

1959 Project Mercury Special Excerpt

1961 Specifications for Engineering Design Services for a Lunar Landing Research Facility

1962 Photo of Apollo Lunar Model

1962 Gravitational Simulator

1962 Air Scoop on John Glenn

1963 Apollo Team to be Chosen by mid-'62

1963 Some Considerations in Research Programs to Assure U.S. Capability for Constructing Manned Outposts on the Lunar Surface. Langley report prepared for Headquarters.

1964 Short Description of Lunar Gravity Simulation

1967 Manned Space Flight: Projects Mercury and Gemini

1967 Astronaut Training Experience Utilizing the Langley Lunar Landing Research Facility

1968 Apollo 8: Man Around the Man

1968 Medical Benefits from Space Research

1969 Astronauts Will Be Quarantined

1969 Mission Report of Apollo 10

1969 Two Revolutions Added to Apollo 11

1969 Apollo 11 Television Schedule

1969 Historical Moon Mission Set for Launch Wednesday

1969 Cubs and Phillies Honor Apollo 11

1969 Armstrong, Aldrin Step Onto Surface (Daily Press)

Daily Press Headline: "We Walk On Moon"

1969 Daily Press Nixon on Lunar Landing

1969 Daily Press: "Tranquility Base Here; The Eagle Has Landed"

Daily Press World Cheers Landing

1969 Ricky Armstrong

1969 Times-Herald Apollo Craft Procedures

1969-07-21 Times Herald Astronauts Discard Expensive Junk Pile

1969 Times-Herald Crew Ends Moon Visit

1969 Times-Herald Laser Beams Return from Moon Reflector

1969 Times-Herald Man Gains Toehold in Heavens

1969 Times-Herald Parents Proud of Son

1969 Times-Herald Two Men Go Walking On Moon

1969 Times-Herald Wives Couldn't Believe It Either

1969 Times-Herald Moon Bugmobile To Keep Astronauts In Isolation

1969 Times-Herald Officials Emphasize Apollo 11

1969 Times-Herald Woman Calls Apollo Hoax

1969 Apollo 11 Successful, Man Walks On Moon

1969 Photos From The Moon

1969 In This Decade: Mission To The Moon

1969 Food For Space Flight

1969 Manned Space Flight Apollo

1970 First Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Landing

1972 Tenth Anniversary of John Glenn's Space Flight Observed

1972 Log of Apollo 11

1979 Apollo 11 Commemorative Certificate

1994 Langley's Behind-the-Scenes Work Helped Launch Apollo 11

1994 Open House Offers a Glimpse of the Past and a View into the Future

25th Anniversary Apollo 11 Stamps To Be Issued

Best Regards from John Glenn (Astronaut)

Best Regards from John Glenn

NASA Facts: Lunar Orbiter

NASA Facts: Mariner Spacecraft

NASA Facts: Space Launch Vehicles

NASA Facts: Surveyor

1966 Surveyor I: A Preliminary Report

Unconventional, Contrary, and Ugly: The Lunar Landing Research Vehicle. Gene J. Matranga, C. Wayne Ottinger, Calvin R. Jarvis, with D. Christian Gelzer. 2004. Monographs in Aerospace History #35. NASA SP-2004-4535.

2012 Hydro Impact Basin and Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle

[top] Copyright Articles

The following articles are available in the Langley Archives Collection and are not maintained in digital format.

Brainstorms Led to Practices' Realism. Daily Press. July 20, 1989.

Ccrrash! JAARS. May/June 1979. Vol 7 No 3.

Crash City: What Happens Beside Splat?. Science News. July 6, 1974. Vol 106, No 1.

Crashing for Safety. Mechanical Engineering. May 1983.

Langley Plans Crash Tests of Navajos. Aviation Week and Space Technology. March 25, 1974.

LRC Plans Crash Test. The Times-Herald. June 19, 1979.

NASA Tests Crash Effects on Airframes. Aviation Week and Space Technology. October 8, 1979.

Plane Crashes Not Unusual at NASA. The Daily Press. May 16, 1973.

[top] Awards

Center Special Achievement Award, 1969

[top] For Students and Teachers

The Lunar Landing Research Facility allowed astronauts to practice landing a lunar module on the moon and how to walk in a 1/6th gravity environment. The facility was designed by Langley Research Center engineer Hewitt Phillips.

The lunar module used hydrogen peroxide as its fuel source and it was suspended from a 73 meter high gantry. The gantry was 122 meters long, and the combination of this height and length let the module move in all directions. The module could even roll when suspended from the gantry! The astronauts liked this simulator because if the module started pitching and rolling uncontrollably testing would stop and the astronauts would be hanging safely from the gantry. This was a much better alternative to an out of control module crashing to the ground.

The ground below the Lunar Landing Research Facility was created to simulate the moon's surface, with craters and similar shading. Interestingly, the Lunar Landing Research Facility was created to be a research facility, but after a Lunar Landing Training Vehicle at Edwards Air Force Base crashed and deemed dangerous the simulator at Langley was used.

The facility was also used to allow astronauts to practice walking in 1/6th gravity. Astronauts were suspended from the gantry at an angle of almost 180 degrees and walked along a fence erected in the facility.

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