Northrop Aerospace Test Site

CTS was officially closed at the end of 2010. To continue test operations, NGC contracted with the Air Force Research Laboratory to activate the old 1-52 test site at Edwards Air Force Base. Mike is one of the original 6 team members responsible for moving CTS assets and making the site operational.


The AFRL Welcome sign is at the north end of the base at the corner of Twenty Mule Team and Rocket Site roads.

Test Stand - Wide Angle

A wide angle view of the test stand. The large white tanks and attached pumps provide space vacuum to the test cell through the large blue ducts. This series of photos was taken with 50% of the buildup completed.

NATS Team of 6

The original team of 6.

NATS Extended Team

The extended team including AFRL, contractors, and management.

Satellite Trailer

This trailer was moved from CTS. It contains the DA&C satellite equipment.

Vacuum Cell

This new test cell was built at CTS for NATS. It can handle thrusters producing 200 pounds of thrust at space vacuum.

Test Stand

D-Pad and DA&C trailer.

Control Room - Wide

NATS-1 Control Room.

Control Room - Mike at Console

Mike at the DA&C Console.

Control Room - All Displays

A typical test has 3 people monitoring the 12 console displays. The bottom row of monitors are touch screens providing system control.

Control Room - Wide

Near the back of the room are the customer displays. Thruster data is provided on custom screens in real-time. They can clearly see what they need without all the facility data needed by the system operators.

Warning Light Control - Schematic

Mike's electro-mechanical experience gets him all the odd jobs. The user interface to the site's 50-year-old warning light and guard arm system was torn out before the NGC crew arrived. Mike designed and fabricated this control panel. Reverse-engineering the legacy 110/240/480VAC system distributed across the site was the hard part.

Warning Light Control - Front View

Completed Panel - Front View

Warning Light Control - Rear Bottom View

Rear View from Below.

Warning Light Control - Rear Top View

Rear View from Above.

Deluge Control - Site Schematic

A control panel for the test cell deluge system was also required. Local and remote pull boxes for C-Pad and D-Pad were required as well as status indicators.

Deluge Control - Wiring Schematic

Deluge System Wiring Schematic.

Deluge Control - Front View

Completed Deluge Control Panel.

Deluge Control - Rear View

Deluge Control Panel - Rear View.

Lead Lag Schematic

Precise lead and lag timing is required for one specific test function at NATS. The 10 msec Linux OS timing is not accurate enough to guarantee timing within the given requirements. A hardware solution was designed and built to solve the problem. In operation, it has 10x the resolution required for testing purposes.

Lead/Lag Circuit - Front View

Lead/Lag Circuit - Front View.

Lead/Lag Circuit - Rear View

Lead/Lag Circuit - Rear View.

Foutain Trailer Park

First-class local accomidations.

Current Status

Thruster testing has completed successfully. The follow-on work expected to go through December 2012 has been cancelled. The NATS site is currently being secured for long term inactivity. Mike's final responsibilities are data archiving and creating reactivation documents. He will be available very soon for a new opportunity.