Restoration of Historic Boosters at Alabama Space Museum Includes Addition of NASA SLS Mockup in Rocket Park

In a groundbreaking ceremony held on August 3, 2023, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) in Huntsville, Alabama celebrated the expansion and reconfiguration of its Rocket Park. The park, which has stood since 1965, will soon feature a full-scale mockup of the engine section of NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) core stage pathfinder, along with newly-restored historic boosters from the early years of the space program.

Dr. Kimberly Robinson, CEO and executive director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, expressed excitement about returning the collection of historic rockets to Rocket Park. These rockets played a significant role in the development of rocketry in Huntsville and ultimately led to the Saturn V rocket that took astronauts to the moon. Cosmos Aerospace of Cullman, Alabama, restored the Redstone-family rockets, including the U.S. Army Redstone, Jupiter, Jupiter-C, Juno II, and Mercury-Redstone boosters.

The restoration project was made possible thanks to a generous donation of $500,000 by Fred Luddy, founder of cloud computing company ServiceNow. Luddy, whose kid attended Space Camp at the rocket center, recognized the historical significance of these rockets and contributed to their preservation.

In addition to the restored historic rockets, the renewed Rocket Park will feature the engine section of NASA’s SLS core stage pathfinder. This engineering simulator was built to match the size, weight, and center of gravity of the actual flight hardware. The pathfinder was used for fit checks and to practice handling the core stages at various NASA centers around the country. The SLS core stage is an important component of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the moon. It holds the propellants for the four RS-25 engines at its base and is topped by an Orion crew spacecraft for lunar missions.

The USSRC plans to use the pathfinder’s engine segment to showcase the massive size of the SLS vehicle and highlight Huntsville’s current and ongoing role in space exploration. This addition will help tell the story of the United States’ space exploration efforts and inspire future generations.

Along with the rocket displays, the renewed Rocket Park will include a new amphitheater for educational and community events, greener guest areas, and the Marshall Retirees Association’s Space Exploration Memorial. The memorial wall aims to honor the tens of thousands of individuals who contributed to the U.S. space program through their work at the Marshall Space Flight Center and local area companies.

To enhance the visitor experience, an interactive kiosk will be built alongside the Space Exploration Memorial. This kiosk will allow visitors to search for names found on the monument and learn more about each person’s specific contributions to spaceflight advancement.

The Rocket Park expansion is part of an ongoing renewal of the USSRC campus. In May, the Space Camp Operations Center opened, providing a state-of-the-art facility for space camp participants. Additionally, efforts are underway to restore the center’s display of the space shuttle Pathfinder.

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is home to the Davidson Center for Space Exploration, which houses one of only three remaining Saturn V rockets and the world’s only vertical mockup of the moon rocket. As the official visitor center for Marshall Space Flight Center and home to U.S. Space Camp, it continues to inspire and educate visitors about the wonders of space exploration.

With the addition of the SLS core stage pathfinder engine segment and the restoration of historic rockets, the USSRC’s Rocket Park will serve as a testament to Huntsville’s rich history and ongoing contributions in the field of rocketry. It will provide a captivating experience for visitors, showcasing the past, present, and future of space exploration.