Follow this link to skip to the Main Content of this page
View Historical Photo of the Month Collection


March 2014

March 28th, 2014
Click on photo to see larger image


Analytical Chemistry Lab

In 1952, the majority of JPL’s 1,000 employees were men, and most of the women working on Lab were in clerical positions.  There were some exceptions, such as the women of the Computing Section, and three women who had technical positions in the Analytical Chemistry Laboratory.  In addition to chemist Lois Taylor, seen in this photo, Julia Shedlesky also worked as a chemist and Luz Trent was a lab technician.  Taylor began working at JPL in 1946.  Section 6 – the Chemistry Section – was involved in the development of new solid and liquid propellants, propellant evaluations, and general studies on combustion processes in motors.

For more information about the history of JPL, contact the JPL Archives for assistance. [Archival and other sources:  Lab-Oratory, March 1952 and May 1956; photo albums and indexes.]

February 2014

February 28th, 2014
Click on photo to see larger image

Plasma Flow Research Lab

In February 1964, JPL’s Plasma Flow Research Laboratory was completed.  It was located in Building 112 by the east gate, in what was once rocket motor test cell B.  It included a 7’x14’ stainless steel cylindrical vacuum chamber with port holes on the sides to view and photograph the tests.  In this photo Gary Russell, a Group Supervisor in the Propulsion Research Section, discussed the plasma facility with JPL Director William Pickering, Deputy Director Brian Sparks, Assistant Director for Research and Advanced Development Frank Goddard, and Propulsion Research Section Chief Don Bartz.

Lab-Oratory, the JPL employee newspaper, covered the opening of this new facility, describing how plasma can be generated by bodies entering an atmosphere at high speed, and in the plasma lab by electrical discharge. The plasma facility at JPL could create thermally ionized gases at temperatures up to 30,000°F.  Findings from the plasma program were to be applied to power and propulsion devices, and reentry problems (thermal protection, communication blackout and electrical breakdown). This was a $1.6 million JPL task – part of the larger NASA plasma research and development program.  [Archival and other sources: Lab-Oratory, March 1964; TR32-625; JPL maps and telephone books.]

For more information about the history of JPL, contact the JPL Archives for assistance.

January 2014

January 31st, 2014
Click on photo to see larger image


Hailstone research

In 1979, this test fixture was used to study how much damage would happen when a solar panel was hit with hail measuring 1/2 inch to 5 inches in diameter.  The white tube is the hailgun barrel.  Interchangeable barrels of various sizes matched the diameter of the “hail” or ice ball being tested.  The solar panel was mounted on the ceiling of the test facility, and an air compressor provided the force to project hailstones upward at about the same velocity as a storm.  In this photo, Lee Albers and Bill Peer of the Test and Mechanical Support Section (357) load an ice ball into the barrel.

Some of the same equipment was originally used to test possible hail damage in Deep Space Network antenna panels.  In summer 1962, after similar tests were done at the South Africa Deep Space Station, a hailstorm simulation facility was developed at JPL to continue the study.  The equipment included heated molds to form ice balls of various sizes and a chest freezer to keep them at 18 degrees F.  Photos from those tests can be found in the Section 333 online photo album (See photos 1468 – 1518.  JPL Internal – log in with JPL user name and password. PDF file may open in a separate tab or window).

For more information about the history of JPL, contact the JPL Archives for assistance. [Archival and other sources:  Space Programs Summary 37-16, vol. 3, 7/31/1962; Section 333 photos; JPL Photolab catalog.]

December 2013

December 31st, 2013
Click on photo to see larger image


Cassegrain transmitter cone
Photograph number 331-4281Ac

December 24, 2013 marked 50 years since the official beginning of the Deep Space Network.  On that date in 1963 JPL Director William Pickering sent out a memo announcing that the Deep Space Instrumentation Facility (DSIF), Interstation Communications, and the mission-independent portion of the Space Flight Operations Facility would be combined and renamed the Deep Space Network.  At that time, the DSIF already included five large antennas in Goldstone, Australia, and South Africa, to provide complete communications coverage as the Earth rotates.

The DSIF began with mobile tracking stations that were used to track the Explorer spacecraft, and in 1958 the first 85-foot (26 meter) antenna was built in the Mojave desert, at the Goldstone Tracking Station.   As new communications technology developed, new antennas have been added to the DSN sites and existing antennas enlarged or modified to increase their capabilities.  This photo shows a Cassegrain cone 100-kw transmitter developed for the 85-foot antenna at the Goldstone Venus site (DSS-13).  It was placed on a cone test elevator in the high-voltage power supply building at Goldstone and raised up high enough that the radiating feed horn on top of the cone was above the roof line of the building during tests.  Development and testing was completed in time for it to be used in communicating with the Mariner 4 spacecraft that went to Mars.

For more information about the history of JPL, contact the JPL Archives for assistance. [Archival and other sources:  SPS 37-29, vol 3; Pickering memo HC3-150B, TM 33-205; Section 331 photo albums and index.]