Wallops Flight Facility
Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) , located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia
Eastern Shore of Virginia
The Eastern Shore of Virginia consists of two counties on the Atlantic coast of the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. The region is part of the Delmarva Peninsula and is separated from the rest of Virginia by the Chesapeake Bay. Its population was 45,553 as of 2010...

, is operated by NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Goddard Space Flight Center
The Goddard Space Flight Center is a major NASA space research laboratory established on May 1, 1959 as NASA's first space flight center. GSFC employs approximately 10,000 civil servants and contractors, and is located approximately northeast of Washington, D.C. in Greenbelt, Maryland, USA. GSFC,...

, primarily as a rocket launch site to support science and exploration missions for NASA and other U.S. government agencies. WFF includes an extensively instrumented range to support launches of more than a dozen types of sounding rocket
Sounding rocket
A sounding rocket, sometimes called a research rocket, is an instrument-carrying rocket designed to take measurements and perform scientific experiments during its sub-orbital flight. The origin of the term comes from nautical vocabulary, where to sound is to throw a weighted line from a ship into...

s, small expendable suborbital and orbital rockets, high altitude balloon
High altitude balloon
High-altitude balloons are unmanned balloons, usually filled with helium or hydrogen that are released into the stratosphere, generally reaching between ....

 flights carrying scientific instruments for atmospheric and astronomical research and—using its Research Airport—flight test
Flight test
Flight test is a branch of aeronautical engineering that develops and gathers data during flight of an aircraft and then analyzes the data to evaluate the flight characteristics of the aircraft and validate its design, including safety aspects...

s of aeronautical research aircraft including unmanned aerial vehicle
Unmanned aerial vehicle
An unmanned aerial vehicle , also known as a unmanned aircraft system , remotely piloted aircraft or unmanned aircraft, is a machine which functions either by the remote control of a navigator or pilot or autonomously, that is, as a self-directing entity...

s. There have been over 16,000 launches from the range at Wallops since its founding in 1945.

The WFF range supports science missions for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , pronounced , like "noah", is a scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce focused on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere...

 (NOAA), and occasionally for foreign governments and commercial organizations. It also supports development tests and exercises involving United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 aircraft and ship-based electronics and weapon systems in the Virginia Capes
Virginia Capes
The Virginia Capes are the two capes, Cape Charles to the north and Cape Henry to the south, that define the entrance to Chesapeake Bay on the eastern coast of North America....

 operating area, near the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay
Chesapeake Bay
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. It lies off the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. The Chesapeake Bay's drainage basin covers in the District of Columbia and parts of six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West...

. In addition to its fixed-location instrumentation assets, the WFF range includes mobile radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

s, telemetry
Telemetry is a technology that allows measurements to be made at a distance, usually via radio wave transmission and reception of the information. The word is derived from Greek roots: tele = remote, and metron = measure...

 receivers, and command transmitters that can be deployed by aircraft to locations around the world, in order to establish a temporary range where no other instrumentation exists, to ensure safety, and to collect data in order to enable and support suborbital rocket launches from remote sites. The WFF mobile range assets have been used to support rocket launches from locations in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, South America, Africa, Europe, Australia and at sea. Workers at Wallops include approximately 1,000 full-time NASA civil service
United States civil service
In the United States, the civil service was established in 1872. The Federal Civil Service is defined as "all appointive positions in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of the Government of the United States, except positions in the uniformed services." . In the early 19th century,...

 employees and contractors, 30 U.S. Navy personnel, and 100 NOAA employees.


In 1945, NASA's predecessor agency, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics
National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics
The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics was a U.S. federal agency founded on March 3, 1915 to undertake, promote, and institutionalize aeronautical research. On October 1, 1958 the agency was dissolved, and its assets and personnel transferred to the newly created National Aeronautics and...

 (NACA), established a rocket launch site on Wallops Island
Wallops Island
Wallops Island is a island off the east coast of Virginia, part of the barrier islands that stretch along the eastern seaboard of the United States of America.It is located in Accomack County, Virginia...

 under the direction of the Langley Research Center
Langley Research Center
Langley Research Center is the oldest of NASA's field centers, located in Hampton, Virginia, United States. It directly borders Poquoson, Virginia and Langley Air Force Base...

. This site was designated the Pilotless Aircraft Research Station and conducted high-speed aerodynamic research to supplement wind tunnel and laboratory investigations into the problems of flight. In 1958, Congress established NASA, which absorbed Langley Research Center and other NACA field centers and research facilities. At that time, the Pilotless Aircraft Research Station became a separate facility - Wallops Station - operating directly under NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. In 1959, NASA acquired the former Naval Air Station Chincoteague, and engineering and administrative activities were moved to this location. In 1974, the Wallops Station was named Wallops Flight Center. The name was changed to Wallops Flight Facility in 1981, when it became part of Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland
Greenbelt, Maryland
Greenbelt is a city in Prince George's County, Maryland, United States. Contained within today's City of Greenbelt is the historic planned community now known locally as "Old Greenbelt" and designated as the Greenbelt Historic District...


In the early years, research at Wallops concentrated on obtaining aerodynamic data at transonic and low supersonic speeds. Between 1959 and 1961, Project Mercury capsules were tested at Wallops in support of NASA's manned space flight program before astronauts were launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is an installation of the United States Air Force Space Command's 45th Space Wing, headquartered at nearby Patrick Air Force Base. Located on Cape Canaveral in the state of Florida, CCAFS is the primary launch head of America's Eastern Range with four launch pads...

 in Florida. Some of these tests using the Little Joe booster rocket
Booster rocket
A booster rocket is either the first stage of a multi-stage launch vehicle, or else a strap-on rocket used to augment the core launch vehicle's takeoff thrust and payload capability. Boosters are generally necessary to launch spacecraft into Earth orbit or beyond...

 were designed to flight-qualify components of the Mercury spacecraft, including the escape and recovery systems and some of the life support systems. Two rhesus monkeys, Sam and Miss Sam, were sent aloft as pioneers for astronauts; both were recovered safely.

Since 1945, the Wallops Test Range has launched more than 14,000 research vehicles in the quest for information on the flight characteristics of airplanes, launch vehicles, and spacecraft; and to increase the knowledge of the Earth's upper atmosphere and the near-space environment. The launch vehicles vary in size and power from the small Super Loki meteorological rockets to orbital-class vehicles.


The WFF Main Base is located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia on the Delmarva Peninsula
Delmarva Peninsula
The Delmarva Peninsula is a large peninsula on the East Coast of the United States, occupied by most of Delaware and portions of Maryland and Virginia...

 5 miles (8 km) west of Chincoteague
Chincoteague may refer to:Geography*Chincoteague Bay, a bay on the coast of Maryland and Virginia*Chincoteague Channel, a channel in Virginia connecting Chincoteague Bay and Chincoteague Inlet*Chincoteague Inlet, an inlet on the coast of Virginia...

, Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

; approximately 90 miles (144.8 km) north of Norfolk
Norfolk, Virginia
Norfolk is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. With a population of 242,803 as of the 2010 Census, it is Virginia's second-largest city behind neighboring Virginia Beach....

, Virginia, and 40 miles (64.4 km) southeast of Salisbury, Maryland
Salisbury, Maryland
-Demographics:Salisbury is the principal city of the Salisbury-Ocean Pines CSA, a Combined Statistical Area that includes the Salisbury metropolitan area and the Ocean Pines micropolitan area , which had a combined population of 176,657 at the 2010 census.As of the census of 2000, there were...

. WFF consists of three separate parcels of real property totaling 6,200 acres (25 km²): the Main Base, the Mainland, and the Wallops Island Launch Site. The Mainland and the Wallops Island Launch Site are approximately 7 miles (11.3 km) southeast of the Main Base.


Wallops operates controlled airspace
Controlled airspace
Controlled airspace is an aviation term used to describe airspace in which ATChas the authority to control air traffic, the level of which varies with the different classes of airspace. Controlled airspace is established mainly for three different reasons:...

 with Federal Aviation Administration
Federal Aviation Administration
The Federal Aviation Administration is the national aviation authority of the United States. An agency of the United States Department of Transportation, it has authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of civil aviation in the U.S...

 (FAA) qualified Air Traffic Controller
Air traffic controller
Air traffic controllers are the people who expedite and maintain a safe and orderly flow of air traffic in the global air traffic control system. The position of the air traffic controller is one that requires highly specialized skills...

s including:
  • The WFF Airport Control Zone to 2500 feet (762 m) within a 5 smi radius of the airport
  • Restricted Area R-6604 connecting WFF airspace and offshore warning areas.

Fixed facilities

Major Wallops facilities include FAA-certified runway
According to ICAO a runway is a "defined rectangular area on a land aerodrome prepared for the landing and take-off of aircraft." Runways may be a man-made surface or a natural surface .- Orientation and dimensions :Runways are named by a number between 01 and 36, which is generally one tenth...

s; an experimental UAV runway; and crash, fire and rescue services. WFF has facilities for the receipt, inspection, assembly, checkout and storage of rocket motors and other hazardous pyrotechnic devices. The Wallops Island Launch Site includes six launch pad
Launch pad
A launch pad is the area and facilities where rockets or spacecraft lift off. A spaceport can contain one or many launch pads. A typical launch pad consists of the service and umbilical structures. The service structure provides an access platform to inspect the launch vehicle prior to launch....

s, three blockhouse
In military science, a blockhouse is a small, isolated fort in the form of a single building. It serves as a defensive strong point against any enemy that does not possess siege equipment or, in modern times, artillery...

s for launch control, and assembly buildings to support the preparation and launching of suborbital and orbital launch vehicles.

The Wallops Research Range includes ground-based and mobile systems, and a range control center. Its radar facilities and systems are used for tracking and surveillance. Telemetry facilities include a variety of antennas, receivers, and display instrumentation systems. Command uplink and optical tracking facilities are included as part of the range. The range also provides premier digital photographic and video services including operation of numerous still cameras, high speed and video systems for Range Safety support, surveillance, and post-launch analysis (e.g., failure analysis), project documentation (e.g., fabrication and test), administrative documentation, and archiving for environmental studies. In addition, WFF has a variety of communications systems and facilities to route voice, video, and data in support of launch processing, flight and test operations.

The WFF Research Airport is located on the Main Base. There are three runways (from 4810 feet (1,466.1 m) to 8750 feet (2,667 m) long), two taxiway
A taxiway is a path on an airport connecting runways with ramps, hangars, terminals and other facilities. They mostly have hard surface such as asphalt or concrete, although smaller airports sometimes use gravel or grass....

s, three ramps, and one hazardous cargo loading area in active service. Two ramps adjoin the two active hangars, and a third ramp adjoins the Crash, Fire and Rescue building. The primary research runway has a test section with a variety of surface textures and materials for runway research projects.

Weather measurements and predictions are critical to all Research Airport operations, rocket and balloon launches, and in safely conducting hazardous operations on the ground. Wallops meteorological services provide measurements of upper atmospheric and magnetic phenomena to augment and enable collection of scientific data by sensors aboard flight vehicles. The S-band Doppler radar
Doppler radar
A Doppler radar is a specialized radar that makes use of the Doppler effect to produce velocity data about objects at a distance. It does this by beaming a microwave signal towards a desired target and listening for its reflection, then analyzing how the frequency of the returned signal has been...

 system at Wallops, known as SPANDAR, is capable of automatic unambiguous tracking of targets up to 60,000 kilometers away. It can detect a single raindrop of 3 millimeters at a range of 10 kilometers and cloud water content as little as 1 gram per cubic meter. SPANDAR’s sensitivity with its 60 feet (18.3 m) dish antenna can detect small changes in the refractive index
Refractive index
In optics the refractive index or index of refraction of a substance or medium is a measure of the speed of light in that medium. It is expressed as a ratio of the speed of light in vacuum relative to that in the considered medium....

 of air caused by sea breeze fronts, gust fronts, and various forms of clear air turbulence
Clear Air Turbulence
Clear Air Turbulence is an album by British jazz-rock fusion band Ian Gillan Band, released in 1977 with cover by Chris Foss. The album was reissued in 1989 by Virgin Records on CD.- Track listing :...


Mobile systems

The Wallops mobile range instrumentation includes telemetry, radar, command and power systems. These assets are used as needed to supplement instrumentation at existing ranges, or to establish a temporary range to ensure safety and collect data to support the rocket customers in a remote location where no other range instrumentation exists. This complement of transportable systems can be deployed to provide complete range capabilities at remote locations around the world.While Wallops Island is the prime location for range services, major sounding rocket campaigns have been supported at Poker Flat, Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

; Andoya, Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

; and Kwajalein
Kwajalein Atoll , is part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands . The southernmost and largest island in the atoll is named Kwajalein Island. English-speaking residents of the U.S...

 Island, Marshall Islands
Marshall Islands
The Republic of the Marshall Islands , , is a Micronesian nation of atolls and islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, just west of the International Date Line and just north of the Equator. As of July 2011 the population was 67,182...

. The Balloon Program and meteorological research missions have required range services to travel to some of the most remote locations on earth. The Wallops Mobile Instrumentation is integrated with NASA and Department of Defense
United States Department of Defense
The United States Department of Defense is the U.S...

 networks and can be used to supplement established ranges in support of rocket launches.

Range technology development

Since 2001, engineers at NASA Wallops Flight Facility have been developing new range technologies, systems and approaches to improve the cost and responsiveness of launch and flight test activities, within the constraints of available funding and program schedules.

Specifically, NASA Wallops has been leading two range technology development projects: the Autonomous Flight Safety System (AFSS) and the Low Cost TDRSS Transceiver (LCT2).

AFSS is a project to develop an autonomous on-board system that could augment or replace traditional ground-commanded Range Safety flight termination systems. The AFSS would use redundant sensors and processors on board a launch vehicle to monitor its trajectory, and if necessary initiate pyrotechnic devices to terminate the flight.

LCT2 is an effort to produce a relatively low-cost transceiver to allow launch vehicles to communicate through NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System
Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System
The Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System is a network of American communications satellites and ground stations used by NASA for space communications. The system was designed to replace an existing network of ground stations that had supported all of NASA's manned flight missions...

 (TDRSS) after they have gone over the horizon from the launch site. LCT2 is being pursued as part of the Space Based Range Demonstration and Certification (SBRDC) program (formerly called Space Based Telemetry and Range Safety (STARS)) in cooperation with NASA Kennedy Space Center.


WFF’s primary mission areas are as follows:

With its sounding rocket, aircraft, and balloon flights carrying scientific payloads, its aeronautical systems testing, its range support for Space Shuttle launches, and its educational outreach activities, WFF supports all of NASA’s Mission Directorates and practically all of their respective themes:

Commercial spaceport

In 1998, the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, later joined by Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

, built the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport
Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is a commercial space launch facility located at the southern tip of NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on the Delmarva Peninsula south of Chincoteague, Virginia.-Background:...

 at Wallops on land leased from NASA. In December 2006, the facility made its first launch.

Visitor center

The Wallops Visitor Center
NASA Visitor Center (Wallops Flight Facility)
The NASA Visitor Center is located in Building J-17, Wallops Island, Virginia, United States along Route 175. It contains exhibits highlighting past missions conducted at Wallops Flight Facility. The visitor center also provides information about current activities at Wallops Flight Facility,...

 has a variety of hands-on exhibits and hosts weekly educational activities and programs to enable children to explore and learn about the technologies designed and used by NASA researchers and scientists. In addition, one Saturday each month, NASA invites model rocketry enthusiasts to launch their own rockets from the WFF rocket launch site. NASA personnel also participate, launching models of various rockets and explaining the spacecraft
A spacecraft or spaceship is a craft or machine designed for spaceflight. Spacecraft are used for a variety of purposes, including communications, earth observation, meteorology, navigation, planetary exploration and transportation of humans and cargo....

 they carry in real life.

The schedule for sounding rocket launches from WFF is posted on its official Web site.


For many years WFF was home to the NSIP Sub-SEM and SEM projects. NSIP stands for the NASA Student Involvement Project, the Sub-SEM project was to design one of four experiments that would be inserted into an ORION-II one stage rocket and launched above 98% of the atmosphere, and experience over 30 Gs of centrifugal force, while SEM was to design an experiment that would be flown on a future Space Shuttle mission. Each project gave 16 students and four teachers (four students and one teacher from each high school) the opportunity to spend an almost all-expense-paid week at WFF. Normally the students and teachers stayed in the Mariner Motel, now a Holiday Inn, conducting experiments and learning about the facility. Following the presidential mandate and budget cuts the entire NSIP program, SEM and Sub-SEM included, were shut down.


The NASA Wallops Flight Facility has alliances with a number of organizations important to its mission and future growth. Some examples include:

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.