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:
The front room

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:

front room with SPS

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.
A satellite on a shelf

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.
The warehouse

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 Rocketdyne crap.)
Again, mostly parts destined for support equipment.
rocketdyne row

This was not "Support equipment".  Buried in the back room of the warehouse is yet another spacecraft engine.
rocket 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...
What a filthy, filthy job.

A side door leads to the back yard of the shop, where bigger items are stored.

Things like Turbopumps for rocket engines.  Just lying around.
a turbopump

And another.  These things were all over the place!
another turbopump

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 boosters. 

A canopy.   Not sure from what.
A canopy

Pipes and conduits from rocket engines.  Could these be Saturn parts?

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...
Some sort of rocket

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 system:

It is part of this mode of the Gemini Capsule:
A big model
The five-gallon bucket behind it should give you some idea of the scale here...

On my way back to the front, Carlos pointed out something rather interesting.

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 ever seen.

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?

Small rocket

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 this...

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.