Fort Churchill (rocket launch site)
Fort Churchill is a rocket
A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...

 launching complex located in Churchill, Manitoba
Churchill, Manitoba
Churchill is a town on the shore of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada. It is most famous for the many polar bears that move toward the shore from inland in the autumn, leading to the nickname "Polar Bear Capital of the World" that has helped its growing tourism industry.-History:A variety of nomadic...

. The site has been used on and off since the mid-1950s for sub-orbital launches of various sounding rocket
Sounding rocket
A sounding rocket, sometimes called a research rocket, is an instrument-carrying rocket designed to take measurements and perform scientific experiments during its sub-orbital flight. The origin of the term comes from nautical vocabulary, where to sound is to throw a weighted line from a ship into...

s during several major studies. The actual facility was some kilometres south of the now defunct military camp, Fort Churchill, and connected by an all weather gravel road.

The complex was first built in 1954 by the Canadian Army to study the effects of auroras on long distance communications. The program shut down in 1955, but the site was re-opened and greatly expanded in 1956 as part of Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

's participation in International Geophysical Year
International Geophysical Year
The International Geophysical Year was an international scientific project that lasted from July 1, 1957, to December 31, 1958. It marked the end of a long period during the Cold War when scientific interchange between East and West was seriously interrupted...

. Launches for the IGY experiments started in 1957, and the site was closed again in December 1958 when the IGY, which was actually two years long, ended.

The site was reopened again in August 1959 by the US Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 as part of its network of sounding rocket stations. In September 1959 it was used to test CARDE
Cardè is a comune in the Province of Cuneo in the Italian region Piedmont, located about 40 km southwest of Turin and about 40 km north of Cuneo. As of 31 December 2004, it had a population of 1,077 and an area of 19.3 km²....

's new solid fuel
Solid fuel
Solid fuel refers to various types of solid material that are used as fuel to produce energy and provide heating, usually released through combustion....

 propellant systems with PVT-1, the vehicle that would evolve into the Black Brant. However in late 1960 a fire destroyed many of the facilities. It was announced that the Black Brant test series would be continued with an additional twelve launches at NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

's Wallops Island
Wallops Island
Wallops Island is a island off the east coast of Virginia, part of the barrier islands that stretch along the eastern seaboard of the United States of America.It is located in Accomack County, Virginia...

 during 1961-62, while the facilities at Churchill were rebuilt.

The US Army ended its involvement at Fort Churchill in June 1970, and the site was taken over by the Canadian National Research Council
National Research Council of Canada
The National Research Council is an agency of the Government of Canada which conducts scientific research and development.- History :...

 to support the Canadian Upper Atmosphere Research Program. The site was used sporadically during the 1970s and 1980s, and was inactive by 1990.

Since 1985 the facility was practically deserted. Nearby, however, at the site of Fort Churchill and the town of Churchill were an airport, a railway, some offices (Chamber of Commerce office), an eco-tourism centre and a geomagnetic observatory. Over the years over 3,500 sub-orbital flights were launched from the site.

In 1995 Akjuit Aerospace announced it would spent $300 million to develop the site as Spaceport Canada, offering it as a commercial site for polar sounding rocket launches. In 1996 they signed an additional deal with the STC Complex of Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 to launch commercial polar-orbiting loads on surplus Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

-era SS-25 ICBMs which were being re-purposed as small orbital launchers known as START-1
Start-1 is a Russian satellite launch vehicle based on the RT-2PM Topol, a Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile developed by Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology.- History :...

 (so named as they were made surplus by the START
Start can refer to multiple topics:* Takeoff, the phase of flight where an aircraft transitions from moving along the ground to flying through the air* Start date, in filmmaking* Start, Louisiana, a town in the United States...

treaty). Churchill's location in the "western hemisphere" combined with its range-safety for firing northwards made it an ideal location, with the exception of the extremely cold weather which would limit launch seasons. Akjuit Aerospace closed down operations in May 1998, due to a lack of financing, and the collapse of the space launch market in 1999/2000 ended any future plans.

External links

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