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An old black and white photo showing engineers adjusting a satellite dish



Naval communications on Point Loma date back to the early 1900s with the commissioning of the Navy Radio Station Point Loma in 1906. The Navy chose Point Loma for its first West Coast laboratory in 1940.

During the Center’s first three decades, it developed a Navywide reputation for its work in radio, tactical warfare simulators, information display and data management systems, sonar, lasers, navigation, satellite communication, and radar.

In the 1980s, the Center achieved notable success in command and control, satellite communications, ocean surveillance, remotely operated vehicles, microelectronics and environmental research.

  • Center scientist Waldo Lyon was on board the Nautilus’ pioneering voyage beneath the Arctic ice cap
  • First West Coast satellite tracking station; the first non-Soviet station to confirm that Sputnik had orbited the earth
  • First successful live launch of a Polaris missile, a few months before the Navy’s Polaris submarine, USS George Washington, was commissioned
  • First liquid light beam that produced a visible light beam
  • Testing of Navy Tactical Data System (NTDS). A computing milestone, NTDS validated the use of digital data processing and facilitated the Navy’s shift from analog to digital data processing
  • Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System (SURTASS) mobile towed surveillance array. Deployed in the 1980s, SURTASS revolutionized undersea surveillance
  • Integrated Refractive Effects Prediction System (IREPS). Allowed operational commanders, for the first time, to properly assess the effects of the atmosphere on the performance of electromagnetic systems such as radar and radio
  • Blue laser and receiver communications technology suitable for transition to space-based submarine laser communications system
  • ARPANET/Internet: During the 1970s, Center was node 3 in the ARPANET, the research network that was a precursor to the Internet. Scientists conducted research, testing, and experimentation in connecting different computers into the network

From the lab’s beginning on June 1, 1940, as the Navy’s Radio and Sound Laboratory (with a staff of six) to today’s full-spectrum research, development and engineering Center (with a staff of more than 5,000), NIWC Pacific has steadfastly delivered on its promise to push the boundaries of science to the benefit of the Navy, the Nation and the warfighter.


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