How the AEDC in Tullahoma helped put a man on the moon

Local News

TULLAHOMA, Tenn. (WKRN) – On September 12, 1962, in front of a large crowd at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas, President John F. Kennedy famously said: “We choose to go the moon!”. And in 1969, to the moon, we went.

What you may not know is that a facility right here in Middle Tennessee helped make that happen.

The Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) is part of Arnold Airforce Base and is where much of the testing for the Apollo Program took place.

In fact, over 55,000 hours of testing to support the Apollo Project took place at AEDC. More than 35 percent of all of the wind tunnel work from the program occurred at AEDC. Testing also included 1,700 firings of the motors that made up the Saturn V launch vehicle. Much of the testing happened in the J-4 facility. 

Randall Quinn, Air Force Rocket Test Operations Manager, gave us a tour of this facility.

J-4 is cavernous and was built in the early 1960s primarily to support the Apollo Program and to do testing on the Saturn V launch vehicle. J-4 is the largest facility of its kind and is made to test rocket engines and to simulate high altitude flight conditions. 

This test facility is 50 feet in diameter and the exhaust chamber underneath is 100 feet in diameter and goes down 200 feet into the ground. J-4 is not currently in use at the moment but there are various other active testing facilities at AEDC. 

Currently, the AEDC operates more than 55 aerodynamic and propulsion wind tunnels, rocket and turbine engine test cells, ballistic ranges, arc heaters, space environmental chambers, and other specialized units. With another trip to the moon planned for 2024, you can bet that much of the testing will be happening right here in Middle Tennessee.

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