NATICK, Mass. (Aug. 6, 2015) — The Secretary of the Army has accepted a $900,000 gift from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Development Finance Agency, or MassDevelopment, to perform infrastructure upgrades to the Doriot Climatic Chambers at the U.S. Army’s Natick Soldier Systems Center.
“On behalf of the United States Army, I am pleased to formally accept the gift of funds to enhance existing facilities within the Doriot Climatic Chambers at U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center,” said the Honorable John McHugh in an official acceptance letter to MassDevelopment in March. “Please accept my deepest appreciation for this generous and thoughtful gift.”
The Natick Soldier Systems Center, or NSSC, is a 78-acre Army installation located 20 miles southwest of Boston, comprised of testing facilities, research laboratories and multiple tenant organizations charged by the Department of Defense with researching and developing individual equipment and sustainment items for U.S. military service members.
Throughout its 60-year existence, the installation has experienced many command reorganizations and title changes, but is still referred locally as the “Army Natick Labs.”
Now, the commonwealth is demonstrating a renewed commitment to its only remaining active-duty Army installation by funding renovations to one of NSSC’s signature research facilities.
“I am proud of the collaboration among industry, academia, and the Department of Defense that will be enabled by these upgrades,” said Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. “The great work done at Natick’s first-class facilities is a vital component to the research needed to fully serve the needs of a modern military and our national security interests.”
The Doriot Climatic Chambers is a unique testing facility capable of producing extreme environmental conditions for the Army’s equipment and human-performance-related research and technology development. The NSSC facility consists of two large, main chambers that simulate tropical and arctic environments by replicating the temperature, humidity, wind, rainfall and solar radiation conditions found anywhere in the world.
“The expansion of systems capabilities in two of the smaller temperature conditioning rooms will give Army personnel a more energy-efficient, cost-effective and adaptive capability to conduct research,” said McHugh.
While the chambers primarily support military research, their specialized capabilities can also benefit nearby academic institutions and commercial industry.
MassDevelopment — whose mission includes stimulating economic and industrial growth, increasing employment, promoting prosperity and building communities throughout the commonwealth — is supporting the opportunity to foster cross-sector, collaborative research partnerships that will advance science and technology innovation.
“Upgrading this Natick Soldier Systems Center facility is critical to promoting federal, industry, and academic collaboration in the Center’s work,” said MassDevelopment President and Chief Executive Officer Marty Jones. “The Commonwealth’s military installations play a major role in the Massachusetts economy, and MassDevelopment is pleased to support Natick Soldier Systems and encourage further innovation.”
Potential partners include any organization within the Department of Defense, industry, or academia that conducts research and development-based testing on clothing, tent shelters, sporting equipment, cold-weather gear, eyewear, food, food equipment, personal electronics, or humans in extreme climates.
Under appropriate arrangements, the chambers can be used by non-federal entities interested in conducting similar research and development.
The chambers are operated by technicians from the Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center, or NSRDEC, the installation’s largest tenant organization, responsible for researching and developing individual Soldier items such as uniforms, footwear, camouflage, body armor, helmets, shelter systems, food and rations, and parachute systems.
The chambers serve as a joint-use facility with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, or USARIEM, also a NSSC tenant organization, responsible for the Army’s medical research and development aimed at optimizing servicemen and women’s health and performance during training and on the battlefield.
The NSRDEC-USARIEM partnership ensures a comprehensive approach to human performance-related research and development efforts conducted in the chambers.
The two smaller conditioning rooms receiving the system upgrades were originally designed to be used when specific testing does not require use of the larger chambers or wind tunnel. However, the mechanical systems were never implemented, causing considerable energy usage.
In a single year, the NSSC often spends more than $125,000 just to power the chambers.
The gift from MassDevelopment will fund the installation of new mechanical and electrical systems, reducing the chambers’ annual operating costs by more than $71,000 and energy use by 85 percent.
The simpler mechanical controls and smaller room sizes will allow for minimal operator oversight, significantly reduce energy costs, and consume smaller amounts of non-HCFC refrigerant, resulting in a smaller carbon footprint. The implementation of modern, automated systems will also enable researchers more frequent, longer-running tests, creating a faster response to emerging test requirements without risk to the equipment and personnel.
The design phase of the upgrades will take an estimated three months, while the construction and startup phases are projected to take approximately six months.
“I am grateful for the Commonwealth’s enduring support of our Soldier-focused mission,” said Brig. Gen. William Cole, NSSC senior commander and deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command. “MassDevelopment’s generous gift to upgrade the Chambers will enhance our existing capability, as well as generate new collaboration opportunities with leading university and industry researchers who may also use the facility through Test Services Agreements.”
“Most importantly, the increased capability will allow NSSC to more quickly and efficiently develop state of the art equipment for our Soldiers.”