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Applied Physics Laboratory

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Title: Applied Physics Laboratory  
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Subject: Johns Hopkins University, New Horizons, Van Allen Probes, Whiting School of Engineering, Europa Multiple-Flyby Mission
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Applied Physics Laboratory

Applied Physics Laboratory
Established 1942
Research type Unclassified/classified
Director Dr. Ralph Semmel
Staff 4500
Location Laurel, MD
Operating agency
Johns Hopkins University

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), located in Johns Hopkins University. Hopkins’ Whiting School of Engineering offers part-time graduate programs through its Engineering for Professionals program. Courses are taught at seven locations in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area, including the APL Education Center.[1]


APL was created in 1942 during World War II under the Office of Scientific Research and Development as part of the Government’s effort to mobilize the nation’s science and engineering expertise within its universities. Its founding director was Merle Anthony Tuve. The Laboratory succeeded in developing the variable-time proximity fuze[2] that played a significant role in the Allied victory. Expected to disband, APL instead became heavily involved in the development of guided missile technology for the Navy. At governmental request, the University continued to maintain the Laboratory as a public service.

APL was originally located in [7] which included a hypersonic wind tunnel.[8] The Forest Grove Station was vacated and torn down in 1963 and flight simulations were moved to Laurel.

The Laboratory’s name comes from its origins in World War II, but APL’s major strengths are systems engineering and technology application. About half of the technical staff are engineers, and 25% have computer science and math degrees. APL conducts programs in fundamental and applied research; exploratory and advanced development; test and evaluation; and systems engineering and integration.

In 1965, the US Army contracted with APL to develop and implement a test and evaluation program for the Pershing missile systems.[9] APL developed the Pershing Operational Test Program (OTP), provided technical support to the Pershing Operational Test Unit (POTU), identified problem areas and improved the performance and survivability of the Pershing systems.[10]

APL has designed many spacecraft for the Department of Defense, including the Transit (satellite) series, and scientific spacecraft for NASA, including the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous, New Horizons, MESSENGER, STEREO and the Van Allen Probes. The Lab is currently developing the Solar Probe Plus mission to probe the outer corona of the Sun.


The U.S. Navy continues to be APL’s primary long-term sponsor. The Laboratory performs work for the Missile Defense Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, intelligence agencies, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and others. The Laboratory supports NASA through space science, spacecraft design and fabrication, and mission operations. APL has made significant contributions in the areas of air defense, strike and power projection, submarine security, antisubmarine warfare, strategic systems evaluation, command and control, distributed information and display systems, sensors, information processing and space systems. APL has built and operated many spacecraft, including: the TRANSIT navigation system, NEAR, Geosat, ACE, TIMED, CONTOUR, MESSENGER, New Horizons, and STEREO. APL proposed the Titan Mare Explorer (TiME) mission to NASA.

The asteroid 132524 APL has been named in honor of APL after a flyby by the New Horizons spacecraft.


The APL researches and produces unmanned aerial vehicles for the US military.[11][12] One of its most recent projects is an unmanned aerial 'swarm'.[13]

Cultural references

APL is referenced in Tom Clancy's novels Patriot Games, The Teeth of the Tiger, and Without Remorse.

See also


  1. ^ "APL Education Center". Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  2. ^ Simpson, Joanne (April 2000). "The Funny Little Fuze with Devastating Aim". Johns Hopkins Magazine (Johns Hopkins University). 
  3. ^ McCoy, Jerry A; Society, Silver Spring Historical (November 2005). "Historic Silver Spring".  
  4. ^ "Johns Hopkins Lets Contract in Md.". The Washington Post. 27 March 1955. 
  5. ^ The Johns Hopkins Gazette: March 25, 2002
  6. ^
  7. ^ Google Maps
  8. ^ The Hypersonic Wind Tunnel At The Applied Physics Laboratory, The Johns Hopkins University, - Storming Media
  9. ^ Mentzer, Jr., William R. (1998). "Test and Evaluation of Land-Mobile Missile Systems". Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest (Johns Hopkins University). 
  10. ^ Lyman, Donald R. (May 1977). "POTU". Field Artillery Journal (United States Army Field Artillery School): 15–17. 
  11. ^ "Duncan Brown". National Security Analysis Staff. JHU/APL. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  12. ^ "Drone Research and Robotic Warfare: The Hopkins Connection". Today's Announcements. Johns Hopkins University. 20 April 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  13. ^ Manufacturing Group (13 August 2012). "Demonstrating Expanded Control of UAV Swarm". Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. Boeing and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) have demonstrated that an operator on the ground, using only a laptop and a military radio, can command an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) "swarm." Despite limited flight training, the operator was able to connect with autonomous UAVs, task them and obtain information without using a ground control station. [...] The demonstrations are conducted under a collaborative agreement between Boeing and JHU/APL, a University Affiliated Research Center and a division of Johns Hopkins University that has been addressing critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology for nearly 70 years. It maintains a staff of about 5,000 on its Laurel, MD, campus. 

External links

  • APL home page

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