Rocket lands in Man­i­toba Mu­seum’s sci­ence gallery

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ARTS & LIFE - By Alison Mayes

THE Man­i­toba Mu­seum’s sci­ence gallery is blast­ing into a new era with the ac­qui­si­tion of a full-size rocket for per­ma­nent dis­play.

Bris­tol Aero­space, the Win­nipeg di­vi­sion of Mag­el­lan Aero­space, on Thurs­day com­mem­o­rated the 50th an­niver­sary of the first launch of its Black Brant rocket by do­nat­ing a newly man­u­fac­tured Black Brant V to the mu­seum.

The re­search rocket, com­monly known as a sound­ing rocket, is val­ued at more than $100,000. It’s about 30 feet long. It will be in­stalled at the cur­rent sci­ence gallery this fall or win­ter, once an ex­hibit about its his­tory and con­tri­bu­tion to sci­ence has been cre­ated.

“The Black Brant was de­signed, de­vel­oped and built here,” said Don Boit­son, vice pres­i­dent and gen­eral man­ager of Bris­tol Aero­space, which con­tin­ues to man­u­fac­ture the rock­ets. “It re­ally did open up a new fron­tier. It has truly earned a place in his­tory.”

The mu­seum is work­ing on a ma­jor cap­i­tal re­newal pro­ject that will in­clude a much-ex­panded sci­ence cen­tre in the cur­rent build­ing, said Claudette Le­clerc, CEO of the institution.

The rocket will be­come an “iconic ar­ti­fact” in the new sci­ence cen­tre, she said.

“The Black Brant rocket is to the sci­ence cen­tre what the Non­such (a replica fur-trad­ing ship) is to the mu­seum,” she said. “Both are fun­da­men­tally about ex­plo­ration.”

Boit­son said the aero­space com­pany hopes the ex­hibit will in­crease aware­ness of the rocket as a Man­i­toba suc­cess story. More than 1,000 Black Brants have been launched through­out the world since 1962, with a suc­cess rate above 98 per cent.

They have been used many times by the Cana­dian Space Agency and NASA and have been launched from coun­tries such as Aus­tralia, Peru, Kenya and Swe­den.

Some mod­els of the Black Brant can reach al­ti­tudes of more than 1,500 kilo­me­tres, well above the or­bits of the Space Shut­tle and the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion.

De­signed to carry sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ments to the fringes of space, they have been used to study phe­nom­ena such as the aurora bo­re­alis, sunspots, ra­di­a­tion, the ozone layer and in­frared light be­yond the at­mos­phere, as well as the sun, stars and plan­ets.

The de­vel­op­ers of the rocket named it af­ter the Black Brant goose. Be­cause its pur­pose was re­search, they wanted a name that was peace­ful, rather than ag­gres­sive like the typ­i­cal names of mil­i­tary craft, Boit­son said. It’s a choice that seems to re­flect the peacelov­ing Cana­dian way, he noted.

Le­clerc said the mu­seum is mak­ing ef­forts to show­case the “cur­rent Man­i­toba story” as well as the prov­ince’s his­tory. The rocket is a great ex­am­ple of home­grown in­no­va­tion, she said, that will help in­spire chil­dren to pursue ca­reers in sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and math.

Of course, the Black Brant won’t be car­ry­ing any rocket fuel.

“No ex­plo­sives will be com­ing to the mu­seum,” Le­clerc said with a laugh.


Bris­tol Aero­space marked the 50th an­niver­sary of the Black Brant’s first launch by do­nat­ing a new Black Brant V to the Man­i­toba Mu­seum.

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