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Restoration of the NIKE Rocket Launcher


André Dessaint,
Canada Science and Technology Museum


In June 1992 the Canada Science and Technology Museum opened a new exhibit called Canada in Space: Destination Earth. The exhibit illustrates Canada's contribution to the ongoing exploration of space and the implications for global communication.

Many of the artifacts were chosen for their significance in the study of space by Canadian institutions. One of the artifacts, the NIKE rocket launcher, was used by the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) to launch Black Brant 3 sounding rockets for high atmosphere exploration. The rocket launcher, collected by the Museum in 1986, was an instant candidate for this exhibit.

In September 1991 the Museum's Conservation / Restoration Division received a request from the exhibit curator to restore the launcher to its original operating condition when it was used for research by the NRC in Nova Scotia and later in Churchill, Manitoba. During this period the launcher was painted yellow and some modifications from its previous military use were evident. During the 1970s, the NRC had repainted the rocket launcher "NRC blue and white," for display purposes at their facility in Ottawa.

The Restoration Division was charged with the task of returning the launcher to the original colour scheme used by the NRC at the testing station in Churchill and to have the launching ramp's hydraulics made operable so that the launcher could be exhibited with a Black Brant rocket on the ramp in an elevated position.

It was difficult to determine the exact condition of the electrical and hydraulic systems without activating them, so part of the treatment proposal included connecting and testing the operation of both, and this was done successfully with the collaboration of the Museum's electrical department. Once this hurdle had been overcome, the remaining treatment was determined: to properly prepare the artifact for painting, stripping was the best solution. An air abrasion unit using walnut shell was selected for the treatment of the steel and abrasive pads with a polishing compound were chosen for the aluminum.

Questions regarding NIKE Rocket should be sent to: ADessaint@technomuses.ca