Friday, October 16, 2009

The ATLAS-1 EMP simulator, AKA "The Trestle"

"ATLAS" in this case stands for Air Force Weapons Lab Transmission-Line Aircraft Simulator #1

If you've ever wanted juicy details on this now-defunct Cold War program, here is an amazing video with a complete history of the project. Although I've read half a dozen white papers that discuss various elements of this system, I've never seen this much clearly-presented information about the program in one place before. The video is not particularly technical so don't be put off if you're merely curious and not an electromagnetics techno-geek.

Here are some titillating techno-facts about The Trestle:

* $60M in 1970-1980 dollars

* the simulator envelope (bounded by aerial wires suspended between tall poles) is 1,300 feet long from ground wedge to terminator tower

* 6.4 million board-feet of glue-laminated larch and fir

* 60,000 fiberglass bolt fastenings

* 600 foot wide bowl in the ground, 120 feet deep, excavated from an existing arroyo

* 185 foot high termination tower

* the big obvious wedge (a tapered "ground plane" which forms part of the simulator transmission line) is 240 feet high

* twin pulsers capable of generating single-shot pulses of 8 MV amplitude (4MV each, opposite polarity) with nanosecond-regime rise times and pulse lengths.

I would give -- gosh, I don't know where my limits might be -- body parts probably; to get a tour of that facility before they tear it down.  Inactive since 1990, I'm almost certain they intend to tear it down soon, or they wouldn't have gone to all the trouble of building the high accuracy 3D models for the Historical American Engineering Record, or this video.  :-(

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