US industrial gases company Air Products is to design and construct a groundbreaking new $16.8m liquid nitrogen plant for NASA’s National Transonic Facility (NTF).

The new plant is to be designed and supplied by Air Products and scheduled for a 2008 start-up, owned by NASA and operated by NASA’s on-site contractor. Air Products won the competitive procurement for a turn-key, fixed price contract, based on a ‘best value to the government’ evaluation completed in September 2006.

NASA’s NTF contains several high-tech operations, including the largest cryogenic wind tunnel in the world, and uses liquid nitrogen to produce a high quality, high altitude test environment for aircraft development and refinement.

Steve Meholic, business manager of Air Separation Equipment at Air Products, commented, “We have actively participated in the competitive process since NASA’s initial market surveys for product supply. This liquid nitrogen plant represents a significant milestone for everyone. We are expecting a successful project completion, and we are targeting to do so ahead of the required contract completion date. The combined efforts of our dedicated project teams at both Air Products and NASA will make this a safe and successful project.”

The new dedicated plant will provide NASA with a secure, long-term supply of liquid nitrogen, substantially reducing the cost of research and testing at the facility. NTF performs research and development testing for government and non-government applications, including aerospace and commercial customers.

Air Products has had a long-standing working relationship with NASA for over 50 years, beginning in 1957 with the commissioning of an industrial gas plant in Ohio and continuing with supplies of liquid hydrogen and other industrial gases for advancing the US Space Programme.