They’re more than 30 feet long, weigh up to 360 kilograms, and only live for about 10 minutes — yet, the Black Brant rocket has helped scientists across the globe peel back the mysteries of the earth and beyond, from the ecosystem to nearby comets to the dancing of the auroras.
Now, Winnipeggers can get up close and personal with the made-in-Manitoba rocketry mainstay, put on permanent exhibit in the Science Gallery at the Manitoba Museum last month.
"It’s something that’s the best in the world," said Dave O’Connor, division manager for defense and space at Magellan Aerospace, which builds the rockets out of its complex on Berry Street near the airport.
"It’s a very important accomplishment for the province."
Last summer, Bristol Aerospace, which operates under Magellan Aerospace, loaned a Black Brant V to the museum to celebrate the rocket’s 50th anniversary.
Bristol has been building the rockets in Manitoba since 1962, more than 1,000 of which have been launched across the United States and Europe, as well as up north in Churchill.
The "work horse" of NASA, as O’Connor says, the rockets are primarily built for scientific research.
Bristol builds up to 15 each year, with as many as 20 people building them. Each take about 500 hours to build over a period of seven to eight weeks, O’Connor said.
Once the motor case is built, the rockets are shipped to Bristol’s facility near Stony Mountain in the RM of Rockwood, where rocket fuel is mixed and cast into the motor, O’Connor said.
From there, the rockets are shipped to groups like NASA or the Canadian and European Space Agencies, who then install their own payloads to conduct experiments in sub-orbital flight — from telescopes to observe planets and stars, or equipment to conduct studies on radio waves, plants, metals, atmospheric chemistry, solar winds, and how auroras behave.
"You can probably say a lot of the fundamental understanding of our ecosystem and atmosphere has been put together through rocket work," O’Connor said.
For more, visit www.magellan.aero or www.manitobamuseum.ca.