Historic California Post, Camps,
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Jet Propulsion Laboratory
US Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles
Between 1945 and 1958 the United States
Army acquired the 147.70 acre Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
site, which consisted of 75.21 acres of fee owned land, 72.44
acres of leased land, and .05 acres acquired by license.
Basic research in rocketry and jet propulsion was started at
JPL in 1936 prior to Army ownership. At that time it was called
the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory of the California Institute
of Technology (Cal Tech).
The project took on the name Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in November 1943, formally becoming an Army facility
under the Chief of Ordnance and operated under contract by the
university. During JPL's Army years, the laboratory developed
two deployed weapon systems, the MGM-5 Corporal and MGM-29 Sergeant
intermediate range ballistic missiles. These missiles were the
first US ballistic missiles developed at JPL It also developed
a number of other weapons system prototypes, such as the Loki
anti-aircraft missile system, and the forerunner of the Aerobee
sounding rocket. At various times, it carried out rocket testing
at the White Sands Proving Ground, NM; Edwards Air Force Base,
CA and Goldstone, CA. A lunar lander was also developed in 1938-39
which influenced design of the Apollo Lunar Module in the 1960s.
In 1954, JPL teamed up with Wernher von
Braun's rocketeers at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency's Redstone
Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, to propose orbiting a satellite
during the International Geophysical Year. The team lost that
proposal to Project Vanguard, and instead embarked on a classified
project to demonstrate ablative re-entry technology using a Jupiter-C
rocket. They carried out three successful sub-orbital flights
in 1956 and 1957. Using a spare Jupiter-C, the two organizations
then launched the United States' first satellite, Explorer 1,
on February 1, 1958.
Executive Order 10793, dated 3 December
1958 transferred custody and jurisdiction of the real property
to the National Aeronautics and and Space Administration (NASA).
The transfer provided for the laboratory to be operated by Cal
Tech in the same manner that it had been during the period of
ownership by the Army. NASA still has custody of the facility.
Cal Tech continues to operate the facility for research and testing
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