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Propulsion Systems Laboratory No. 1 and 2

The Propulsion Systems Laboratory (PSL) No. 1 and 2 was for years the nation’s most powerful facility for testing full-scale engines at simulated flight altitudes. For nearly three decades, the PSL tested aircraft, missile, and rocket engines to support a range of military and civilian programs. This website seeks to preserve the legacy of the original PSL facility for future generations.


Construction of the PSL facility.
Construction of the PSL facility. The two large structures are the primary coolers for the test chambers. (1/19/1951)

Design and Construction

The addition of the PSL No. 1 and 2 in 1952 provided the NACA with a state-of-the-art tool for studying the more powerful engines of the future.

Seymour Himmel giving a talk in PSL on controls for ramjet engines at the NACA's 1954 Inspection.
Seymour Himmel giving a talk on controls for ramjet engines at the NACA's 1954 Inspection. The display is between the two PSL test chambers. (6/17/1954)

Missiles and Turbojets

In the 1950s, PSL tested turbojet and ramjet engines for military aircraft and missile systems, before transitioning in the 1960s to rocket engines for NASA’s early space program.

A Pratt & Whitney TF30 turbofan engine about to be installed in PSL No. 1.
Electrical Engineer Fred Looft (left) and Engineering Services Chief Robert Godman inspect a Pratt & Whitney TF30 turbofan engine at PSL. (10/6/1967)

Return to Jet Engines

In the late 1960s and 1970s, PSL undertook a series of engine studies for civilian and military aircraft. NASA also created two larger PSL test chambers to support the increased aeronautics work.

PSL demolition.
Demolition of PSL's primary coolers (01/07/2009).

PSL’s Final Years

NASA ceased operation of PSL No. 1 and 2 in the late 1970s. After nearly 30 years of disuse, NASA demolished the facility in 2009.


PSL exterior at night.
PSL exterior at night (9/24/1952).

Facility Components

PSL No. 1 and 2 included two altitude chambers, a modern control room, a combustion air supply system, an exhauster system, and cooling water system.

View of exterior of lit up PSL complex at night.
The PSL complex as it appeared shortly after the facility became operational in the fall of 1952.

PSL Support Buildings

The PSL complex included the Equipment Building, which contained the powerful exhausters and compressors, the Shop and Access Building with the two test chambers, an office building, and a cooling tower.

Isometric diagram of the PSL facility.
Blue arrows show flow of air from the combustors to the air heaters, the green arrows indicate air flow from the heaters into the test chambers, and the red arrows show the hot exhaust air flow from the test chambers to the exhauster equipment (11/15/1954).

How the PSL Worked

A brief overview of how the PSL No. 1 and 2 was able to test large engines in simulated altitude conditions.


Exhibits set up for Inspection between two PSL chambers
NACA Inspection stop at the PSL No. 1 and 2 (1957).

PSL No. 1 and 2 Timelines

List of events that impacted PSL No. 1 and 2 and catalog of tests conducted in all four PSL test chambers through 1979.

Two librarians filing reports
Library personnel file technical reports (1961).

Historic Documents

Collection of links to PDFs of historical documents, reference material, and technical reports related to PSL No. 1 and 2.

Cover of Pursuit of Power book
Pursuit of Power: NASA’s Propulsion Systems Laboratory No. 1 and 2 is a history of the research, operations, and people involved.

About the History Office

Lockheed Aircraft Corporation F-94B Starfire airplane parked at NASA

Glenn Archives and History Publications

The Glenn History Office manages the center’s archival collection and produces publications, websites, and other materials documenting the center’s extensive history. This page provides an overview of the collection, list of publications, and links to additional resources.

SPC bulkhead.

Historic Preservation

NASA Glenn Research Center has a number of historic facilities, some of which have been demolished in recent years. Many of these sites had not been fully utilized for years and were in disrepair. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act(NHPA) requires every federal agency to consult with the State Historic Preservation Offices on … Read the rest ⇢

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