Kaptur Lands $20 Million Investment to Redevelop Hypersonic Test Facility at NASA Plum Brook Station

June 19, 2019
Press Release
House Passed FY2020 Defense Funding Bill would put Plum Brook at cutting edge of aerospace developments as DoD investment in hypersonic systems development and testing increases

WASHINGTON — Today, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (OH-09) released the following statement after legislation she championed to invest $20 million to redevelop the Hypersonic Tunnel Facility (HTF) at NASA Glenn Research Center’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio passed the House floor in the FY2020 Defense Appropriations Bill. The legislation is expected to pass the Senate in the near future.


Investment in the Plum Brook hypersonic test facility will bolster Northern Ohio’s leadership in cutting edge aerospace developments as the Department of Defense (DoD) investment in hypersonic weapons system development and testing increases. Hypersonic weapons are a new frontier for the U.S. Military, and thanks to this funding secured by Rep. Kaptur, Northern Ohio will play a key role in accomplishing that mission.


“Ohio, the birthplace of aviation, has a long and storied history as a leader in supporting the creation of cutting-edge aeronautic technologies,” said Rep. Kaptur. “With this historic investment to redevelop the Hypersonic Tunnel Facility at Plum Brook Station, Ohio will have an exciting opportunity to blaze new trails in the testing and development of innovative aerospace technology. Plum Brook Station’s hypersonic test facility is the nation’s first large-scale, non-vitiated, hypersonic propulsion test facility. The HTF’s close proximity to Toledo and Cleveland means greater partnerships with Northern Ohio companies, military installations, and our world class educational institutions currently engaged in training the workforce for America’s hypersonic programs. I look forward to seeing Northern Ohio play a key role in securing the safety and security of our nation for generations to come. I urge the proposal’s swift passage in the Senate.”


Congresswoman Kaptur led the 16 members of the Ohio delegation in sending a bipartisan letter to Dr. Michael D. Griffin, the Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering, to emphasize their strong support for the near-term opportunity available to re-launch and modernize the HTF at Plum Brook Station.


Hypersonic Weapons Background:

  • Hypersonic weapons present one of the greatest threats to U.S. national security today.
  • Hypersonic weapons incorporate the speed of a ballistic missile with the maneuverability of a cruise missile.
  • Hypersonic weapons travel faster than Mach 5 (~3,800mph) and have the capability to maneuver during the entire flight. 
  • Hypersonic weapons travel along the edge of space and accelerate to between Mach 5 and Mach 10 (over 7,500 mph).
  • The advantages of hypersonic weapons are speed, enhanced maneuverability, and a smooth flight path – making the weapon much harder to track and take down than that of traditional missiles.
  • The ability to travel at ultra-high velocity is the primary appeal of hypersonic missiles because it extends their range and allows them to bypass modern layered missile defenses.
  • Maneuverability allows hypersonic weapons to evade missile defense tracking systems and interceptors, leaving only (roughly 18) seconds to react once discovered.


Why NASA Plum Brook?

  • Plum Brook Station’s hypersonic test facility is the nation’s first large-scale, non-vitiated, hypersonic propulsion test facility.
  • The HTF provides capabilities for long test durations (5 minutes) at Mach 5, 6, and 7 flight conditions. It does this by creating high-temperature clean air, which is preferable to facilities that create hot air through combustion.
  • The HTF facility offers the Department of Defense greater capacity to conduct research, testing, and technical risk reduction of hypersonic weapon systems development.
  • Plum Brook Station has large, unique facilities that simulate the environment of space. Most of these capabilities are world unique, including an electric aircraft testbed for investigating flight weight power train systems, the world’s largest thermal-vacuum space simulation chamber, the largest mechanical vibration table, the most powerful reverberant acoustic test chamber, the largest electromagnetic test chamber, the largest space simulation chamber which can test in planetary dust, the largest liquid hydrogen-capable space simulation chamber, and the only cold soak start/restart rocket engine test facility.


Bottom Line for Northern Ohio:

  • The HTF is easily accessible from downtown Cleveland and Toledo.
  • The HTF’s close proximity to Toledo and Cleveland means greater partnerships with Northern Ohio companies, the campus is easily accessible to airports, Lake Erie ports and companies, military installations, and educational institutions around the country currently engaged in, and others interested in, training the workforce for America’s hypersonic programs


Additional Background on NASA-Plum Brook:

  • Sandusky’s Plum Brook Station is an annex to the NASA Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in Cleveland, Ohio. The combination of the Lewis Field and Plum Brook locations comprise over 6,800 acres of land and include 450 research and test facilities.
  • The NASA Glenn Research Center was originally established as the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory (AERL), part of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in 1941.
  • The laboratory became a national resource for innovations in aircraft engine technology, which influenced commercial and military propulsion systems.  The AERL was renamed the Lewis Research Center and became part of the new National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958. In 1999, NASA Lewis was renamed the John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field.