One of Huntsville’s major attractions is about to get even more attractive, as renovations and improvements to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s Rocket Park are set to begin this month.
These renovations are part of an ongoing effort to renew the Space & Rocket Center campus, which also includes the construction of a new Space Camp Operations Center. Here’s what we know about what’s going on at Rocket Park:
Rocket Park getting a facelift
Rocket Park, the Space & Rocket Center’s impressive collection of historic rockets used by NASA, will undergo a major renovation and overhaul, which will include several improvements to the park itself.
Rocket Park was called “the finest rocket collection in the world” by Mercury astronaut John Glenn. In the park, 27 missiles and rockets show how Army rocketry launched America’s space program and gave rise to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
Some significant examples of these historic launch vehicles populate Rocket Park: a Hermes, an early U.S. adaptation of the V-2 wartime rocket that stands beside it; a Jupiter C, used to launch Explorer I; a Juno II, designed to launch early satellites and space probes; and a Saturn I, the country’s first dedicated space launcher, designed to put payloads into orbit.
In addition to repainting the rockets, the improvements at the park include:
- Remounting the existing rockets
- A new amphitheater for educational experiences and community events
- Greener and more guest-friendly spaces
- Space Exploration Memorial honoring local people and companies who have contributed to space exploration
- SLS Core Stage Pathfinder display
There are also plans for an interactive kiosk to be built alongside the Space Exploration Memorial where visitors can search names found on the monument and learn more about that person’s specific contributions to the advancement of spaceflight
“We are pleased to officially begin the important work of returning our collection of historic rockets to Rocket Park. These vehicles trace the origins of Huntsville’s past and current role in rocketry, and this project is a cornerstone as we update and renew our campus for future generations to come.”Dr. Kimberly Robinson, CEO and executive director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center
Some of the new features at Rocket Park
Help from the Huntsville community
The renovations and improvements could not be possible if not for the generosity and assistance from members of Huntsville’s private and corporate communities.
For instance, Fred Luddy, founder of ServiceNow, a cloud computing company, donated $500,000 to restore the five historic rockets. An additional $5 million is needed to re-mount the rockets and to implement the park landscaping plan designed by architectural firm Matheny Goldmon.