First test cell installed at Aeropropulsion Systems Test Facility 40 years ago this month
By Bradley Hicks, AEDC/PA
/ Published May 05, 2020
ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- Forty years ago this month, a significant hurdle in bringing the multiyear, multimillion dollar Aeropropulsion Systems Test Facility construction project at Arnold Air Force Base to completion was cleared.
The first test cell in ASTF was put into place in May 1980. This milestone occurred almost three years after the ASTF groundbreaking ceremony took place at Arnold and a little more than four years before the dedication of ASTF.
The test cell was one of two half-million-pound, 28-foot-wide and approximately 50-foot-long test cells installed in ASTF.
The test cell brought into the Arnold Engineering Development Complex headquarters around this time four decades ago was transported from one area of the ASTF construction site to the test cell building on a specially-constructed 72-wheel transport cart via an 800-foot-long road built specifically for the haul.
According to the June 1980 edition of High Mach, six months of planning and preparation went into the lifting of the 550,000-pound test cell and its transport to its eventual home. The transport itself, however, was completed in a matter of hours.
Prior to its move, the test cell was heat-treated to relieve stress on its welds.
The pair of ASTF test cells would go on to be used in the full-scale operational testing of advanced jet engines. ASTF was intended to increase the jet engine testing capability at Arnold for a then-maximum of 50,000-pound-thrust-class engines to engines generating thrust of 100,000 pounds.
Around the same time the first test cell was delivered to ASTF, a nearly one million-pound section of cooling equipment used to chill the airflow from engines tested in the facility test cells was moved into place via a large ringer crane.
ASTF, which is part of the Engine Test Facility and is comprised of altitude test cells C-1 and C-2, is de-signed to test large military and commercial aircraft engines in true mission environments. It allows data which was previously only available after extensive flight testing to be acquired through ground testing.
Around two decades of planning went into bringing ASTF to Arnold. The conception of the facility involved a number of government agencies and aerospace companies. The construction involved around 700 different companies.
Construction of ASTF began in 1977. It took seven years to complete and cost more than a half-billion dollars to build.
ASTF was dedicated on Oct. 2, 1984. The integration and activation of the facility followed, and ASTF reached initial operational capability in September 1985.
In recent years, ASTF has been used to test F119 engines for the F-22A Raptor aircraft and F135 engines for the F-35 Lightning II aircraft. Turbofan engines such as the Rolls-Royce Trent 800 for the Boeing 777, the Trent 900 and GP7200 for the Airbus A380, the Pratt & Whitney 6000 for the Airbus A318, the Trent 1000 for the Boeing 787, the XF7-10 for the Kawasaki P-1, and the BR725 for the Gulfstream G650 have been tested in ASTF.