Who We Are

Our History

A LEGACY of INNOVATION

Who We Are

Our History

A LEGACY of INNOVATION

“…To experiment upon, test, promote, and develop the public, scientific, and commercial value of inventions, discoveries, and processes…”

Research Foundation of Armour Institute of Technology, Certificate of Incorporation, Article 2, Section 1, April 6, 1936

Our Roots

In 1936, the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) established the Research Foundation of Armour Institute of Technology — known as the Armour Research Foundation (ARF) — with the goal of testing and developing new, beneficial technologies. The company name changed to IIT Research Institute (IITRI) on June 1, 1963. On December 20, 2002, approximately 1,600 IITRI employees purchased a majority of the organization’s assets, founding Alion Science and Technology and retaining the rich heritage of innovation and exploration that has characterized the company since its inception. Alion continues to draw on these successes, giving our employees the inspiration to continue seeking new technological and scientific solutions to problems both great and small.

Snow Cruiser

The year was 1934. Admiral Richard E. Byrd, on his second Antarctic expedition, found himself stranded and near death from carbon monoxide poisoning. His second in command, scientist Thomas Poulter, led a team that rescued Byrd and saved the Admiral’s life. The brutal Antarctic conditions that Poulter encountered on the 525-mile rescue mission inspired him, when he became director of Armour Research Foundation, to design a vehicle that could effectively operate in such a harsh environment. From this adventure, the Snow Cruiser was born.

Measuring 55 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 16 feet high, the Snow Cruiser weighed in at 75,000 pounds, with an airplane mounted on top. It contained compartments for a machine room, scientific laboratory, cabin and chart room, engine room, galley, living quarters with four bunks, and a storeroom that included two full-size tires, each 10 feet in diameter.

Poulter took the Snow Cruiser to the Antarctic late in 1939. There, a group of scientists used it as a base station for a variety of experiments. Unfortunately, due to the outbreak of World War II, the government funding for the Snow Cruiser was cancelled in 1940, and the vehicle was abandoned in the Antarctic, where it presumably rests today, buried under the snow and ice.

Setting Standards for Golf Balls

In the early 20th century, the U.S. Golf Association (USGA) had a problem. There were no standards for golf ball design and manufacturing, so golf balls from various manufacturers varied wildly in their behavioral characteristics, making it hard to compare the skills of individual golfers. Performance might be a function of the ball, not the player.

Circa 1940, the USGA reached out to the Armour Research Foundation (ARF) for help. After developing a testing methodology, ARF engineers constructed a machine to measure the velocity of a golf ball at impact with the club head and to assess its rate of spin leaving the club. From that, a standard set of specifications could be designed, and golf balls from any manufacturer could be tested to see if they conformed to the standards.

Thanks to ARF’s machine, the USGA could finally assure that players’ skills alone decided the game, independent of the make of balls being used. The USGA still employs a modern version of the same machine to measure the performance of every type of golf ball used in major tournaments played today around the world.

The Race to Space

Space is a harsh environment, with extreme variations in temperature and high levels of radiation of various types. When the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) needed protection for its spacecraft and components, IITRI stepped up and created mission-critical thermal coatings as well as the complex processes needed to apply them.

IITRI supplied coatings for the Gemini, Apollo, and Saturn programs — among many others — as well as for use on global positioning satellites. By 1998, IITRI had produced 95 percent of the thermal coatings on the satellites that reached space.

Today, Alion continues to support NASA as the space agency moves forward with new programs and challenges. And our thermal coatings are used on private and public sector space vessels, alike.

This legacy of innovation continues today. We are still focused on exploring the outer limits of what’s possible. We’re still forward thinking, and we’re just as dedicated to looking for fresh, innovative solutions to 21st century problems as we’ve been to solving the problems of the past. Stay tuned to our social channels or this page to learn more about our journey from the race to space up to present day— and beyond.

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