NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

A dedication ceremony to mark the opening of Jet Propulsion Laboratory's new Observational Instruments Laboratory will begin at 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 10, on the steps of the building entrance.

The new laboratory -- Building 306 -- will house the Laboratory's Observational Systems Division 38, which is devoted to the design, assembly and testing of a new generation of observational flight instruments for planetary exploration and NASA's series of Earth-observing missions.

"The observational instruments NASA plans to develop for future payloads will be more robust, sensitive and complex," said Dr. William Whitney of Division 38, a co-coordinator in the design and construction of the building.

"It was critical that JPL build this facility, not only to bring all of the test and integration laboratories scattered across Lab under one roof, but to ensure that our observational instruments meet the highest standards of quality for future science missions."

The $14.5-million Observational Instruments Laboratory, known as the OIL building, is a four-story facility with 6,780 gross square meters (73,000 square feet) of space. The building was constructed to protect instruments from building vibration, an important feature in testing and calibrating highly sensitive optical instruments.

One wing of the structure, adjacent to and on the east side of the main corridor, houses a 430-square-meter (4,600-squarefoot) high-bay clean room to accommodate development of new space flight instruments. The high bay is designated a "class 100,000" clean room, which means that particle counts in the air cannot exceed a total of 100,000 particles per cubic foot (about 28 liters) of a size of 0.5 microns or larger, Whitney said.

"One of the first observational instruments to occupy the new high-bay clean room is an interferometer that will augment the 5-meter (200-inch) telescope at Palomar Observatory (near San Diego, Calif.)," Whitney said.

"Other instruments nearing start of development in the new facility include one of the cameras that will fly on the Cassini spacecraft to Saturn, known as the Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS), and an Earth-observing instrument called the Multi-Angle Imaging Spectroradiometer (MISR)."

The OIL laboratory is located on the southeast side of JPL and looks out onto Surveyor Road just east of Building 170. The first two floors contain a variety of small clean rooms and laboratories, including several designed for delicate optics work and an interferometer laboratory.

Many of the ground floor laboratories have concrete equipment pads that are seismically isolated from the primary foundation slab, Whitney said. One of these labs has been built specifically for "in situ" instruments that will make direct measurements and analyze the chemical composition of planetary surfaces or atmospheres.

The new OIL building also features locker rooms and showers on the top floor to encourage more employees to walk or ride their bicycles to work.

About 150 people will be housed on the third and fourth floors of offices, said Robert Ibaven of Division 38, who co-coordinated design and building construction along with Whitney. The new occupants represent about one-third of the Observational Systems Division, as well as staff who have been working in smaller instrument development laboratories spread across the Lab.

Construction of the OIL building began in April 1991 under contract to Kitchell Contractors, Inc., in Irvine, Calif. The building was designed by the architectural firm of Albert C. Martin and Associates in Los Angeles. NASA funded the project through its Construction of Facilities Program.

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