Redstone Test Center now making snow to find the best gear for troops

Inside look at snow testing at Redstone Arsenal
Published: Jun. 6, 2018 at 10:13 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 10, 2018 at 7:38 PM CDT
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(Source: WAFF 48 News)
(Source: WAFF 48 News)
(Source: WAFF 48 News)
(Source: WAFF 48 News)

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Let it snow at Redstone Arsenal!

The U.S. Army Redstone Test Center (RTC) has a 'cool' new test capability – producing snow.

The purpose is to see how Army equipment performs in extreme climates, making sure our soldiers are getting the very best gear no matter where they're deployed.

RTC engineers are using multi-environment chambers at the Climatic Test Division to examine equipment in all different kinds of weather conditions to see how it holds up.

It has two large chambers that create extreme temperatures, from -100 degrees to 185+ degrees.

"Our mission is to ensure that the equipment that is tested here will be able to support the war fighter's needs in the field. The war fighter doesn't get snow days. The equipment has to work in all environments. It's mission critical. It's safety critical. It has to work when he needs it so we test to those extremes," explained mechanical engineer Matt Lucas.

RTC produces the snow using a commercially available snow generation system.

"Our new test capability is our snow test capability where we're applying snow loads in a snow environment to simulate that blizzard environment that the Army materiel will see out in the field," Lucas added.

The special chambers are designed to support a number of environments including, high and low temperatures, temperature shock, humidity, steady state rain, icing/freezing rain, solar radiation and now, snow.

"All of those conditions we can create in this facility on the test item, on the piece of Army equipment that's going to be deployed with the soldier to ensure that it works when he needs it," Lucas said.

With three independent plenums in each chamber, the chamber is capable of maintaining low temperature while defrosting the ice buildup on the refrigeration coils on one plenum while maintaining the chamber temperature utilizing the remaining two plenums. This capability is critical for generating the snow environment and the icing/freezing rain inside of the chamber.

Any test item that can fit in the 25'x25'x25' chamber can be tested. Facilities are designed for both explosive and non-explosive test items. The first test of an Army system with snow was done in April. Future work is planned to fully characterize the snow test capability, including snow accumulation rates, snow density and snow coverage areas, according to RTC officials.

The facility costs around $8 million, but it's saving taxpayers a lot. The cost to take  equipment to the arctic, dessert, or the tropics adds up. The benefit to chamber testing is that the RTC doesn't have to find that environment in the world. In the chambers, they can go to extremes in no time. Most equipment will go through that kind of testing because it's fielded for all environments. Crews that work in the multi-environment chambers know how important their efforts are for the military.

"It's a good feeling to know that we can do our small part to help the war fighter," Lucas stated. "We like what we do here because we know that it provides an opportunity to support the war fighter to ensure that what he gets will work out in the field."

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