A TRIP TO NORTON SALES
MAY 18, 2006
If you consider yourself a nerd with an
interest in space exploration, you must go to Norton Sales.
Located at 7429 Laurel Canyon Blvd, in North Hollywood, CA, it is much,
much more than it would appear from the front. As you approach,
you notice the signs up front. "Hydraulics, pneumatics, Industrial" one
reads "Surplus" states another. What is not said is that a very
large proportion of this surplus comes from the space industry.
Inside this building is an amazing assortment of bits and pieces of
various parts of the space program, along with other, lesser bits.
This is the front of the shop. It gives you a bit of an idea what we
are dealing with here:
Shelves packed to the gills with all sorts of things pressure vessels,
hoses and connectors, gauges, flow meters, pumps, you name it. there is
probably one in here somewhere. But, as I stated earlier, this
shop is special. It is different from other surplus stores.
It has stuff like this:
If you look to the right of center, just to the side of the crate you
can see something interesting. It is an actual SPS engine from
the Apollo Service Module. It is missing the engine bell, but the
rest of it is right there...
Yes, that is a satellite. Damaged and removed from possible service, it
ended up here.
I talked with Carlos, the owner of this shop for quite some time.
He took me on a tour of some of the highlights, then let me wander at
my whim, taking pictures of whatever I wanted...
This is the warehouse. Several rooms, packed with stuff.
These are all hydraulic lines, many of which were destined to be part
of the space program, to be used mainly in support equipment.
More support equipment, these are boxes that mostly held testing
equipment, or were used to transport delicate parts until installed in
whatever they were installed in. According to Carlos, most are
empty, but not all. No idea what's in them...
This is "Rocketdyne Row." All the stuff in here came from
Rocketdyne (Lots of other stuff elsewhere did as well, but this is pure
Again, mostly parts destined for support equipment.
This was not "Support equipment". Buried in the back room of the
warehouse is yet another spacecraft engine.
...And another row of stuff, this not organized at all. I wonder
what Taking Inventory is like for a surplus shop. I would love to
spend a few days digging around in this warehouse...
A side door leads to the back yard of the shop, where bigger items are
Things like Turbopumps for rocket engines. Just lying around.
And another. These things were all over the place!
Some stuff here is from the Mercury Program, some Gemini, some
Apollo. A lot also comes from various missile programs. Carlos
pointed out several pieces shown above are from the older,
liquid-fueled ICBM's that
were replaced by faster-to-deploy and more reliable solid-fuel
A canopy. Not sure from what.
Pipes and conduits from rocket engines. Could these be Saturn
And another engine. This one was in a shipping case at one point,
but was opened up and exposed to the elements, the cover is that big
round thing lying behind it, holding many gallons of rain water...
I don't think the Dessicant pack that protected the engine from
moisture is going to help at this point...
In addition to a lot or really cool junk. Norton Sales has a large
collection of Contractor's models for lots of spacecraft and parts.
Probably the best model is the Rocketdyne model of the Gemini thruster
It is part of this mode of the Gemini Capsule:
The five-gallon bucket behind it should give you some idea of the scale
On my way back to the front, Carlos pointed out something rather
This is an Apollo Turbopump impeller. It is about 2 feet long
from end to end and weighs a lot. This is a very, very, very
precise piece of equipment. Carlos was not sure if it came from
the F1 or J-2 engines, but it is impressive, regardless. The
partial paperwork that came with this explains that it is as perfectly
balanced as was humanly possible back in the 1960's. Remember,
this was before CNC milling, when metal things like this had to be
jigged and run by hand. Precision was really, unbelievably hard
back then, and yet they made this. Actually, many of these.
Impellers for pumping LOX or Kerosene or Liquid hydrogen, which was
capable of spinning at 28,000 (Yes, twenty-eight THOUSAND) RPM.
This is the finest example of precision engineering and milling I have
An important thing to remember: This is not a museum. Carlos is
in the business of buying and selling stuff. While the models are
not for sale, most of the other things are. All you need is the
right amount. Need an XLR-99 engine for your homebuilt
X-15? He has two of them. Just pony up $100,000 each and
they are yours. Need an LR-101 vernier rocket engine? He
has hundreds in various states to choose from, from badly rusted bells
to complete, unfired engines with injector heads and gimbals.
This is the kind of place that just calls out "Find something cool and
buy it!!!" So I did. What did I choose?
An LR-101 thruster. 1000 lbs thrust. It's used and the
inside has burned, but externally still in good shape. I will be
using this in class, when we discuss space exploration. Kids do
not really understand what rocket engines are like, and now we have a
concrete example to look at. I want to get an injector head for
So, if you have the time and are close by, drop in on Norton Sales in
North Hollywood. You never can tell what you will find there, and
what you will go home with...
Here is the website for Norton Sales.