Rocket Science in Manitoba

June 7, 2013

The Chemistry/Bioscience students are away this month, working hard at their respective co-op placements. We hope to soon bring you some news about the work our students are doing, but, in the interim and just for fun, here’s some interesting information that many people

Canada's Black Brant rocket

Canada’s Black Brant rocket

don’t know about science in Manitoba.

Nestled among the canola fields of the Rockwood municipality a half hour north of Winnipeg is the Bristol Aerospace Propellant Plant. This plant is the only large scale commercial manufacturer of rockets in Canada. Opened in 1962, the plant makes a wide variety of solid propellant rockets, including the CRV7, the CL289 and the Black Brant. The Black Brant (pictured) is a so-called “sounding” rocket, used to explore atmospheric phenomena. It has been in production at the plant for decades and is still used by NASA. When combined with other stages, the Black Brant can reach altitudes of over 1000 km, allowing payloads to experience periods of microgravity or follow chemical reactions in the upper atmosphere.

As with the other Bristol rockets, the Black Brant is powered by the industry standard AP/HTPB propellant based on ammonium perchlorate mixed with polybutadiene. The Brant is particularly popular with researchers due to its very high reliability: over 800 have been launched over the years, with a 98% success rate!