UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Blossom Point

The Blossom Point facility is a 1,600 acre U.S. Army installation located near LaPlata, Maryland in southern Charles County. The Blossom Point Field Test Facility is an active facility under the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, Adelphi, Maryland. The ARL Blossom Point Facility is classified as a range, and as such is closed to the public. Access to DoD employees and contractors is limited by the operating hours of the facility.

The Naval Research Laboratory also manages satellites through its satellite control network at Blossom Point Test Facility in Maryland. The Navy's Blossom Point Tracking Facility (BPTF) field site is located in Blossom Point. The facility is contained on 41 acres located within the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's property bordering Nanjemoy Creek and the Potomac River. This location provides horizon to horizon look angles and an interference free, low noise environment. To prevent interference with the sensitive satellite antenna radio receivers, the Blossom Point Field Site is protected by a 2000-ft-radius buffer zone. The Blossom Point Field Site provides simultaneous tracking and data acquisition, health and status monitoring, and command and control for NRL and Navy satellites. The site participates in the development of space systems, both satellite and ground elements, to support Navy mission requirements.

During the early Vanguard days, the Naval Research Laboratory contemplated using only four Minitrack stations along with a prototype station, but by the time Vanguard was ready to issue its first full-scale report of progress in December 1955, the radio tracking experts were thinking in far more elaborate terms. In its final form the Minitrack network would consist of fourteen ground installations. One of them, the prototype Minitrack station at Blossom Point Proving Ground in Maryland, forty miles south of Washington, was a service-station for the other elements of the network. Here the electronics engineers, the foreign scientists, and other technicians chosen to operate the stations received the bulk of their training. Blossom Point also provided a center for the development of system tests and of procedures for calibrating the Minitrack antennas.

The NRL facility consists of 13 buildings totaling approximately 65,000 sq.ft. of floor space that includes approximately 10,000 sq.ft. of operational space. The numerous site antennas receive data from and transmit commands to satellites. The station is in continuous operation 24 h/day, 7 days per week, and supports 27 spacecraft. The facility has five antenna foundations to support 20-ft parabolic antennas and risers with an axis of rotation at 45 ft above base and a radome foundation to accommodate a 35-ft radome truncated at 80%. There are eight satellite receive links (receivers and combiners, bit synchronizers, and frame synchronizers), and seven satellite uplinks (encoders and transmitters). Power is supplied by six redundant uninterruptable power supplies (UPSs) rated at 30 kW, a redundant UPS rated at 40 kW, and a redundant UPS rated at 60 kW. Emergency power is supplied by a redundant emergency generator rated at 650 kW, a redundant emergency generator rated at 250 kW, and an emergency generator rated at 500 kW.

A BRAC realignment action relocated the Acoustic/Optical Range to Blossom Point, MD.

In a 1993 assessment report, the U.S. Army declared the Blossom Point Test Facility a HIGH risk area for contracting Lyme disease. The Blossom Point Test Facility assessment found the Lyme disease tick, the Lyme disease bacteria in the ticks and mammals at the facility, and human Lyme disease cases in the surrounding area.

During World War II, Harry Diamond and his team at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS, now named NIST) needed open areas where they could test the fuzes they were developing. They established test sites at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, Fort Fisher, NC, and, in early 1943, NBS leased land and established a proving ground for proximity fuzes at Blossom Point. By September 1945, 14,000 rocket and mortar rounds had been fired. In 1953, the lease on the property was transferred to the Army, which operated the property as a fast -reaction, low-cost range for exp er imental work. Firing ranges provided a 2000-yard maximum range for land impact and a 10,000-yard maximum for water impact. During the Vietnam War, the Army's Harry Diamond Laboratory was very active at the site.

The National Bureau of Standards leased 2,000 acres of land from The Corporation of Roman Catholic Clergymen of Maryland beginning 01 July 1941. Although the Bureau of Standards is a non-DOD agency, the property was leased for defense purposes. The site was originally called the Blossom Point Proving Ground and is located at Cedar Point Neck in Charles County, 10 miles south of La Plata, Maryland. In 1953, accountability for the property was transferred to the Department of Defense. The land was used by Diamond Ordnance Fuse Laboratories (later called Harry Diamond Laboratories, and currently known as Army Research Laboratory's Adelphi Laboratory Center) for the applied research and development of radiating or influence fusing, time fusing (electronic, electrical, decay, or fluid), selected command fuzing for target detection, signature analysis, and the target intercept phase of terminal guidance as well as some ordnance testing.

A 23-acre portion of the site was permitted to the Navy in 1956 for use as a satellite command and control base for defense related satellites programs. The Navy currently uses 41.0 acres of the site for a tracking station under Department of the Army Permit No. DACA-31-4-81-338, as amended. The permit also grants the Navy an additional 265 acres for use as a buffer zone.

From 1943 until the early 1970's, portions of the Potomac River and the Nanjemoy Creek served as impact areas from ordnance testing on the currently active DOD site. The precise acreage of the impact areas has not been determined. Both bodies of water are owned by the State of Maryland and are adjacent to the installation. During testing, sirens were sounded to warn boaters. A chase boat was kept on stand-by in the event a boater entered the impact area. When testing was not being conducted, there were no restrictions on use of the water. There was no formal real estate instrument for use of the water areas, and the sirens and chase boat were maintained for public safety purposes.

Use of the surrounding bodies of water as impact areas ceased in the early 1970's. However, testing is actively conducted on the adjacent DOD-controlled land. Although it would be highly unlikely, there is the potential for ordnance to stray into the water areas.

When negotiations for renewal of the lease were unsuccessful, in 1976, a Declaration of Taking was filed to condemn a leasehold interest for one year with the option to renew annually for four more years. It was at this time that the recorded site acreage was revised from 2,000 acres to 1,327.70 acres. The reason for this revision is unknown, and maps indicate the gross area was unchanged, so it is assumed that some land was lost due to erosion, and some of the difference is attributed to more accurate surveys. In December 1976, at the Navy's request, the Declaration of Taking was amended to add an additional 112.57 acres located outside the original leased area as a buffer. The total acreage was then changed to 1,440.35. The acreage was once again amended in 1978 to 1,599.60 acres after a revised metes and bounds description was prepared. As a result of the condemnation, the United States was granted a one year lease with four one-year renewal options as well as a three year option to purchase the property. In January 1960, this option was exercised and the United States purchased, in fee, 1,599.60 acres of land.


Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list