Energy and Climate

National Solar Thermal Test Facility (NSTTF)

The Tower at the National Solar Thermal Test Facility (NSTTF) offers a complete test environment with a distinct height advantage for a variety of activities, including:

  • Nuclear thermal flash simulation
  • Thermal performance testing and
thermophysical properties measurement
  • Radar and sensor testing, including measuring the effects of aerodynamic
heating on radar transmissions
  • Night and low-light laser testing
  • Space technology systems testing
  • Solar array and solar applications testing
  • Air-to-ground target testing

In addition, the Tower’s large-scale optics can be used for astronomical observations. Skilled on-site technicians provide mechanical, electrical, control, and instrumentation support for tests or applications that can benefit from the Tower’s unique capabilities. The Tower uses a digital data logger with multiple channels and variable frequency control. Full data communications exist between the Tower and the control building, and an underground tunnel connects the control building to the Tower.

Solar Furnace

The solar furnace uses heliostats to direct sunlight onto mirrored parabolic dishes that then reflect the light onto targets in the furnace. An attenuator controls the amount of solar flux reaching a target. The power of the furnace can be controlled to simulate nuclear and other thermal transients.

Point-Focus Parabolic Dishes/Test Bed Concentrators

Two 36-foot-diameter dishes, individually controlled to track the sun in two axes, produce 75 kW of thermal power and peak fluxes up to 1500 W/cm2. Adjustments to facet alignment regulate power levels and flux distribution, and square-wave transients can be generated by adjusting shutters mounted at the focal plane.

Bench Test Facility/Engine Test Laboratory

The NSTTF’s Bench Test Facility includes an assembly bay, two test cells, a control room, and a variety of energy supply options such as electric heaters, propane-fired heat pipes, and solar simulators.

Additional support facilities include:

  • Rotating Platform: A 10 foot x 20 foot outdoor platform, used to test components
under specific solar angles of incidence, rotates 360 degrees under computer control
and includes a complete data acquisition system.
  • Assembly Building: A 2500-square-foot warehouse with 34-foot ceiling contains a
5-ton mobile crane with a 24-foot lift, as well as welding and machining tools.

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