Physical Context - Air Force Research Laboratory, Edwards Air Force Base

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) encompasses approximately 65 square miles, or 13 percent of the approximately 470 square miles that make up Edwards Air Force Base (AFB). The base is located in the Antelope Valley, in the western Mojave Desert, north of Los Angeles, California. The valley is relatively flat and is bordered by the Tehachapi Mountains on the northwest and the San Gabriel Mountains on the south. The vegetation in this area is creosote bush scrub, which is characterized by creosote bush, sagebrush, Joshua trees, and other desert flora.

The AFRL is situated in the eastern portion of Edwards AFB. Most of the built environment at the AFRL is concentrated on and directly east of Leuhman Ridge. The ridge, which runs northeast to southwest, is approximately 2 miles east of the eastern shore of Rogers Dry Lake. The landscape is characterized by both dramatic and gradual changes in elevation. The western face of Leuhman Ridge, which rises more than 350 feet above the valley floor, undulates with a series of natural washes and promontories. The eastern face of the ridge rolls more gradually in its descent to the valley floor, with a natural shelf immediately west of the ridgeline. The other major topographical feature is Haystack Butte, located southeast of Leuhman Ridge. This dual-peaked butte rises more than 250 feet in a one-half-square-mile area.

Prominent natural features define the AFRL's layout and transportation patterns. The basic arrangement consists of the northeast/southwest ridgeline above the natural shelf with three long roads radiating north and east from the central shelf. The land use patterns at the AFRL also follow this layout. The large, high-capacity test stands are located along the ridge, which allows the natural washes to act as flumes for the test stands (CA-236-4). The administrative, support, and general laboratory facilities are centrally located on the natural shelf west of the ridge. Finally, testing and research areas are located along both Mercury and Mars Boulevards, separated by open spaces to ensure both safety and security.