|The Dry Lake Beds
Edwards Air Force Base, on California's Mojave Desert about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles, has two unique natural resources that help make it the premier flight test facility in all the world; Rogers and Rosamond dry lakebeds.
Rogers Dry Lake is the largest of the two and has been used since 1977 as the landing site for many space shuttle test and operational flights. But both lakebeds have been used for emergency and test landings of aircraft for more than 40 years. And these natural flat surfaces have literally saved hundreds of aircrew lives and aircraft valued at millions of dollars because they offer a broad expanse of hardened clay on which to land aircraft in emergency situations.
Rogers Dry Lake has been declared a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior, because of its role in the development of the nation's space program and in the development of aerospace systems.
Rogers has a surface of about 44 square miles and is the lakebed next to which the main Edwards complex has been developed. There are seven "drawn on" runways crisscrossing the surface of Rogers, with the longest 17/ 35 extending 7 1/2 miles.
The main Edwards concrete runway is also located next to Rogers Dry Lake and combining this runway's 15,000 foot length with a 9,000 foot lakebed overrun gives pilots with an inflight emergency one of the longest and safest runways anywhere in the world.
Rosamond Dry Lake, serveral miles southwest of Rogers, offers 21 square miles of smooth flat surface which is also used for routine flight test and research operations and for emergency landings.
The lakebeds are among the lowest points in Antelope Valley and collect seasonal rain and snow runoff from surrounding hills and also from the San Gabriel Mountains to the south and the Tehachapi Mountains to the west.
At one time the lakebeds contained water the year around, but changing geological and weather patterns are void of vegetation and contain water only after infrequent rains or snow falls.
The flatness of the lakebeds was revealed following a measurement of the Rosamond lakebed surface which has a curvature of less than 18 inches over a distance of 30,000 feet.
The history of Edwards AFB and the military's use of Rogers and Rosamond lakebeds goes back to the early 1930s when Army Air Corps aircraft from what is now March Air Force Base, Riverside, Calif., flew over the lakebeds for bombing and gunnery practice. During World War II, facilities were established adjacent to Rogers Dry Lake then called Muroc Dry Lake to train bomber and fighter crews for duty overseas.
During the early 1940s, the base was chosen as the site to flight test the nation's first jet aircraft, the Bell XP-59A Airacomet. As the flight test program progressed, it became evident that the lakebed coupled with year around flying weather was an ideal place for all phases of aircraft testing and permanent facilities began emerging.
In 1949, what was then called Muroc Army Air Field was renamed Edwards AFB in honor of Capt. Glen Edwards, copilot on the YB-49 jetpowered flying wing which crashed near the base June 4, 1948.
The Air Force Flight Test Center was activated at Edwards in 1951, and with the increased number of flight test programs carried out at Edwards in recent years, the natural surfaces of Rogers and Rosamond dry lakebeds have taken on even greater roles as emergency landing sites and sites for test and research.
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Flight Test Center
E-mail comments: Public Affairs
Last updated: July 25, 2006
1 S. Rosamond Blvd.
Edwards AFB, CA 93524
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FAX: (661) 277-2732
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