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Applied Physics Laboratory
Johns Hopkins APL.JPG
Established 1942
Research Type Unclassified/classified
Staff 4500
Location Laurel, Maryland
Operating Agency Johns Hopkins University

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), located in Howard County, Maryland near Laurel and Columbia, is a not-for-profit, university-affiliated research center employing 4,500 people. APL is primarily a defense contractor. It serves as a technical resource for the Department of Defense, NASA, and other government agencies. The Lab is a research and development organization rather than an academic division of Johns Hopkins University. Hopkins’ Whiting School of Engineering offers part-time graduate programs through its Engineering and Applied Science Programs for Professionals. 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 Government request, the University continued to maintain the Laboratory as a public service.

APL was originally located in Silver Spring, Maryland at the former Wolf Motor Company building at 8621 Georgia Avenue.[3] APL moved to Laurel beginning in 1954, with all staff moving there by 1975.[4][5] Before moving to Laurel, APL also maintained the "Forest Grove Station", north of Silver Spring on Georgia Avenue near today's Forest Glen Metro,[6] which included a hypersonic wind tunnel.[7] 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 system 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.

From 1965 through 1990, APL provided technical support to and performed testing to improve the performance and survivability of the Pershing missile systems.

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.

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

Cultural References

APL is referenced in Tom Clancy’s novels "The Teeth of the Tiger" and "Without Remorse".


External links

Coordinates: 39°09′55″N 76°53′50″W / 39.16528°N 76.89722°W / 39.16528; -76.89722



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