The Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) is a major NASA space research laboratory established on May 1, 1959 as NASA's first space flight center. GSFC employs approximately 10,000 civil servants and contractors, and is located approximately 6.5 miles northeast of Washington, D.C. in Greenbelt, Maryland, USA.
GSFC is the largest combined organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to increasing knowledge of the Earth, the Solar System, and the Universe via observations from space in the United States. GSFC is a major U.S. laboratory for developing and operating unmanned scientific spacecraft. GSFC conducts scientific investigation, development and operation of space systems, and development of related technologies. Goddard scientists can develop and support a mission, and Goddard engineers and technicians can design and build the spacecraft for that mission. Goddard scientist John C. Mather shared the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on COBE.
GSFC also operates spaceflight tracking and data acquisition networks, develops and maintains advanced space and Earth science data information systems, and develops satellite systems for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
GSFC manages operations for many NASA and international missions including the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the Explorer program, the Discovery Program, the Earth Observing System (EOS), INTEGRAL, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) and Swift. Past missions managed by GSFC include the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, SMM, COBE, IUE, and ROSAT. Typically, unmanned earth observation missions and observatories in Earth orbit are managed by GSFC, while unmanned planetary missions are managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
The Goddard Space Flight Center is named in recognition of Dr Robert H. Goddard, the pioneer of modern rocket propulsion in the United States.
The GSFC Greenbelt facility encompasses the Main Site and adjacent outlying sites. The main campus includes 50 buildings. Additional GSFC facilities are located in New York City, Virginia, and West Virginia. The Greenbelt facility contains two campuses, which were formerly divided by Soil Conservation Road. Soil Conservation Road has recently been diverted to go around the GSFC, and the section that divided the two campuses was turned into Hubble Road.
The West Campus contains buildings that support administration, research, design and construction of spacecraft, operation of spacecraft, information storage and archival, and data analysis. The buildings generally are two to three stories high, often brick, and simply detailed. Amenities include two cafeterias, a base exchange
operated by the Goddard Employees Welfare Association (GEWA), a library, a health services unit, a post office, and recreation areas. West Campus facilities include:
- The Diffraction Grating Evaluation Facility (DGEF) was developed at Goddard to evaluate optical components such as diffraction gratings, mirrors, and filters as well as detection systems used in space instrumentation.
- The Flight Dynamics Facility (FDF) provides engineering services to missions including orbit determination, attitude determination, maneuver planning, spacecraft navigation systems, and attitude sensor performance analysis. Currently, FDF provides orbit and attitude determination for more than 15 NASA spacecraft, and also supports Space Shuttle operations and expendable launch vehicles.
- The High Capacity Centrifuge located in Building 15 is a 30 g rotary accelerator capable of rotating 5,000 pound payloads at up to 30 RPM and is housed in its own circular building. Tilt fixtures allow the orientation of test articles in a wide range of attitudes and angles.
- The NASA Communications Network (NASCOM) is a global system that provides communications support to all NASA projects. Voice, data, and teletype links are available through the network for connecting the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) with user spacecraft control centers. Land lines, submarine cables, and microwave/satellite links make up this communications system.
- The Network Control Center (NCC) manages the total Space Network. The NCC schedules and configures the TDRSS and monitors the status of ongoing scheduled services. Operators schedule emergency services, isolate any problems in the system, and restore faulty user services. The Control Center communicates with other stations through the NASCOM network.
- The Building 3/13/14 Payload Operations Control Centers (POCC) are facilities that provide support to one or more spacecraft missions. Some are operated from GSFC, for example SOHO, and some are operated from offsite, for example Swift. Equipment located in control centers handles all data, generates commands, and interfaces with other stations. The control centers also process experiment commands and telemetry, and control payload and instrument operations. The Hubble Space Telescope Control Center (STOCC) in Building 3 is the facility where Hubble Space Telescope (HST) managers and engineers monitor and control the orbiting observatory. Past missions operated at GSFC include the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, COBE, and IUE.
- The Space Environment Simulator is a three-story high thermal-vacuum chamber (nicknamed "The SES") located in Building 10 that features an 8.2 meter diameter by 12.2 meter high vacuum chamber capable of simulating temperature and vacuum conditions for virtually any launch or orbital environment condition. Shroud temperatures within the chamber can be controlled to -180 °C to +100 °C.
- The National Space Science Data Center (NSSDC) at GSFC provides online and offline access to a wide variety of astrophysics, space plasma and solar physics, lunar and planetary, and Earth science data from NASA space flight missions. NSSDC also provides access to online information for the spacecraft and experiments that have or will provide public access data.
- The Spacecraft Fabrication Facility where Goddard technicians and engineers manufacture components used for spacecraft assembly. This includes the tools which the astronauts use in space as well as the spacecraft themselves.
- The Building 29 Spacecraft Systems Development and Integration Facility is a 7990 m² facility that contains one of the largest cleanrooms in the world. The High Bay Cleanroom is a , class 1,000 (M4.5), horizontal flow cleanroom measuring 30.5 x 38 x 27 meters (100'x125'x89'). Its five 250 horsepower fans are capable of moving 25,388 m³/min (900,000 ft³/min). It has been designed to support the integration and testing of flight hardware and has the capacity to accommodate two full-sized shuttle payloads simultaneously and plays a major role in preparations for the Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Missions.
- The Building 7/10 Spacecraft Test and Integration Facility contains cleanrooms for spacecraft integration and special chambers for environmental test of spacecraft. Nine thermal-vacuum chambers, four large vibration platforms("shakers"), and an acoustic test chamber capable of 150 decibels are located in this facility. There is also a full-scale model of the Hubble Space Telescope.
- Building 11/30 contains the Detector Development Laboratory (DDL), a world class semiconductor processing facility. Some of the worlds most distinctive microelectronic devices have been fabricated at the Goddard facilities and many have flown on space missions over the past 35 years. The second floor of building 11 houses the Workshop for Advanced Navigation Technology (WANT), an award winning facility that develops next generation navigation and communication avionics for spacecraft.
The northern area of the East Campus contains several buildings that support maintenance, utilities, or tracking and communication operations. Antennas and other communication equipment that support the operations are located in this area. The southern area of the East Campus contains facilities for NASA's Mission to Planet Earth. The rest of the East Campus is still in a relatively undeveloped state. Amenities include a small convenience store
, a recreation center, and hiking trails. East Campus facilities include:
- The Central Chilled Water and Generator Plant in Building 31 provides utilities to the East Campus.
- The Earth Observing System Data Information System (EOSDIS) in Building 32. The EOSDIS in contains the operations centers where the Earth Observing System (EOS) and Landsat program spacecraft and instruments are monitored and controlled. EOS data are processed, archived and distributed from this location.
- The Earth Systems Science Building (ESSB) in Building 33. The ESSB contains offices and facilities for the analysis of earth observation data.
NASA owns 1121 acres of land at Greenbelt. The remaining 149 acres are the outlying adjacent sites and are leased from the United States Department of Agriculture
(USDA). Amenities include softball fields for Goddard intramural teams and an asphalt
runway for radio controlled
aircraft. The outlying sites include:
- The Antenna Performance Measuring Range (Area 100)
- The Optical Tracking and Ground Plane Facilities (Area 200)
- The Magnetics Test Facility (Area 300), located in a magnetic-quiet area, uses large coil magnets operated from a single control building to calibrate and align both instrumentation and spacecraft attitude control systems, and determine of the dipole moment of spacecraft. This facility is the only facility in NASA's inventory that makes it possible to determine and to minimize the magnetic movement of even the largest unmanned spacecraft and observatories.
- The Propulsion Research Site (Area 400)
External GSFC facilities
GSFC operates three facilities that are not located at the Greenbelt site. These facilities are:
- The Wallops Flight Facility located in Wallops Island, Virginia was established in 1945, and is one of the oldest launch sites in the world. Wallops manages NASA's sounding rocket program, and supports approximately 35 missions each year.
- The Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) located at Columbia University in New York City, where much of the center's theoretical research is conducted. Operated in close association with Columbia and other area universities, the institute provides support research in geophysics, astrophysics, astronomy and meteorology.
- The Independent Verification and Validation Facility (IV&V) in Fairmont, West Virginia was established in 1993 to improve the safety, reliability, and quality of software used in NASA missions.