Atlas Rocket to Be Scrapped

The Atlas 5A Rocket outside the Canada Museum of Science & Technology in Ottawa, Ontario. (photo by David Carroll - creative commons - link HERE)
The Atlas 5A Rocket outside the Canada Museum of Science & Technology in Ottawa, Ontario. (photo by David Carroll - creative commons - link HERE)
The Atlas 5A rocket outside the Canada Science & Technology Museum in Ottawa, Ontario. (photo by David Carroll – creative commons – link HERE)

The Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa, Ontario has announced that it will scrap the Atlas 5A rocket which has stood outside its building since 1973. Officially on loan from the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, the rocket, serial number 56-6742, is currently one of just a handful of survivors from the early days of the US space program. It has stood exposed to the elements for forty years now, and corrosion has taken its toll. Its weight-saving design is partly to blame for its weakened state, as its massive fuel tank was only structurally sound when pressurized from within by its liquid propellant or forced gas. The manufacturer, General Dynamics, never intended the rocket to stand freely without the tank being filled in some way. The museum in Ottawa has been using an air compressor to maintain that internal pressure for some years, but the vessel leaks so badly that they are worried the rocket might collapse in on itself, as one did previously at the Air Force Museum in Dayton during the 1980s. Without modifying the rocket with costly internal bracing, there really is little the Canadian museum can do to render the rocket safe for further public display. They have elected to return the Atlas to Dayton, but the Air Force Museum does not want it back. While it is possible that the Air Force Museum could assign the rocket to another museum if that entity paid for its move and restoration, that seems highly unlikely due to the enormous expenses involved. Failing the rocket passing to another approved museum, under the terms of the loan it must be shredded into bite-sized chunks. This is necessary due to the rocket’s strategic technology, however ancient. It was once capable of being used as a ballistic missile, and there must be no possibility that any internal components might survive to be reverse engineered by undesirable third parties.

 

11 Comments

      • If the foam is bought on public subscription ( a form of aerohistorical crowdfunding) the price aspect of it goes away. If it overfills etc, it was going to be destroyed anyway.

        Laying it down may help also, though snow presents it’s own challenges.

        • What is this “snow” of which you speak? I’ve seen video of it on “Sightings”, but it looks faked.

          GP, San Diego

  1. The Museum does not own the rocket. It is the property of the United States Air Force (USAF) on loan to the Museum. The USAF has indicated it does not want the Atlas Rocket returned, and has provided strict instructions about the manner of its disposal. Under these terms, the Museum is not permitted to keep or repurpose any pieces of the rocket. Currently, no vehicles to transport the rocket exist, so it cannot be moved.
    Please see our news release and backgrounder here http://cstmuseum.techno-science.ca/en/newsroom.php

    • Many thanks for your response. You are absolutely correct about the ownership of the rocket; that the rocket is on loan from the NMUSAF, and that they have final authority on its future. This is stated specifically in our article… That being said, it is still possible for the NMUSAF to reassign the Atlas rocket to another qualifying entity, with that entity taking on the responsibility of moving and caring for the rocket. The NMUSAF has done this frequently in the past with equally or more sensitive technology.

      As for it not being possible to move the rocket, that is not technically true. There are always ways of dissembling a large exhibit for transportation and reassembly. It has been done many, many times before with aircraft far larger, heavier and awkward to move than the Atlas. It’s just very expensive and time intensive… something which most museums are unwilling, or unable to entertain. While it makes perfect sense for the Canada Science & Technology Museum to end their association with the rocket, that doesn’t have to mean the rocket is destroyed if another home can be agreed upon by the parties involved… It has to happen in a timely manner though of course.

  2. What bull. Several Atlas missiles have been modified internally and stand without any internal pressure. There are 2 at KSC, 1 in San Diego, 1 at the USAF Museum, that stand erect without internal pressure.

  3. Why not sell pieces, or donate pieces to museums? A piece of stainless steel from the 1950s cannot possibly be a secret anymore.

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