Rocket Engine Test Facility

test facility in 1982
Rocket Engine Test Facility, Cleveland, Ohio, 1982.

NPS Photo / NASA

Rocket Engine Test Facility

Cleveland, OH

Designated an NHL: October 3, 1985

Designation withdrawn: April 4, 2005

The Rocket Engine Test Facility (RETF) was built between 1956 and 1957 by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) at the Lewis Research Center, and is the site where the technology for the use of hydrogen as rocket fuel was developed. The complex was established for the testing of full scale rocket thrust chambers. The ten-acre site consisted of two major buildings with multiple support structures. Building 202 was used for sea level testing of vertically mounted rocket thrust chambers and space simulation testing of horizontally mounted rocket engines. The RETF facility had high pressure capabilities, the ability to test various rocket propellants, and space simulation capabilities for large area ratio rocket nozzle tests.

interior, exterior views and capability statements
Rocket Engine Test Facility, Cleveland, Ohio, 1981. Interior, exterior views and capability statements.

NPS Photo / NASA

The development of the RL-10 engine for the Centaur rocket, the J-2 engine for the Saturn rocket, and the hydrogen-oxygen engines used for the Space Shuttle, were all developed at the Rocket Engine Test Facility by NASA contractors who worked to develop liquid hydrogen rockets for the American Space Program. The manned Apollo program and the unmanned exploration program could not have come to fruition without the development of this technology that supplied the necessary propulsion for the rockets engines to reach outer space.

The RETF served as an active research center in support of the Advanced Space Shuttle, Orbit Transfer Vehicles, and the Space Station Programs. On October 3, 1985 the Rocket Engine Test Facility was designated a National Historic Landmark.

site after razing the facilities
Rocket Engine Test Facility, Cleveland, Ohio, August 2003. Site after razing of the facilities.

NPS Photo

Razing of the facility took place in 2003 to accommodate the runway expansion of the neighboring Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Designation of the Rocket Engine Test Facility was withdrawn on April 4, 2005, because the facility is no longer extant and it therefore fails to meet the criteria for designation as a National Historic Landmark.

Last updated: August 29, 2018