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Rockwell International. Rocketdyne Division (1946-) | Special Collections & Archives

Name: Rockwell International. Rocketdyne Division (1946-)
Variant Name: Rockwell International Corporation Rocketdyne Division
Fuller Form: The Boeing Company - Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power, Santa Susana Field Laboratories (SSFL)

Historical Note:

The Rockwell International Corporation established the Santa Susana Field Laboratories (SSFL) in 1946.  SSFL comprises approximately 2,700 acres located in the southeastern section of Ventura County.  The site is adjacent to the western edge of the San Fernando Valley just west of Chatsworth, extending to the western edge of the San Fernando Valley in the Simi Hills.  Communities surrounding the site include Santa Susana Knolls, Bell Canyon and Lakeside Park.

Rocket engine testing began at the SSFL in the 1940s.  Between 1953 and 1961 over 8,000 tests on rocket engines and fuel were completed at the site, many related to the early Apollo space missions.  During the 1970s and 1980s SSFL was used primarily to test engines for NASA’s space shuttle program.  The SSFL site is used today to build and test engines for the Atlas and Delta projects.

Research conducted at SSFL has generated hazardous wastes in the atmosphere, local groundwater, and soil.  In 1980, SSFL was permitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a “waste pile,” and in 1982 it was “clean closed."  In 1989, SSFL was granted status as a thermal treatment facility.  Wastes used at the site included used propellants and reactive/ignitable scraps from research and development operations, as well as several solvents and kerosene used in cleaning up stored explosives.

Major investigations were completed in 1982 and 1990, both of which include laboratory analysis of soil samples, and continual oversight activities of the area by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Regional Water Control Board have closely documented cleanup activities. Dangers of contamination to the public and the environment since the 1990 investigations have been shown to be eliminated.  Currently, SSFL is in the process of closing.  Detailed plans for the closure have been prepared, and the site will continue to be monitored as activities continue well into the next century.

In December 1996, the Rocketdyne Division of Rockwell, as well as the Santa Susana Field Laboratories became a subsidiary of Boeing North American, Inc.  Shortly thereafter to Boeing North American, Inc. became Boeing Company Rocketdyne Propulsion & Power.  Cleanup activities at the site continue under the direction of the Boeing Company and the U.S. Department of Energy.  Additional environmental reports and community studies continue to be added to the collection several times a year.

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