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Historic Rockets

Project: Rocket Park, Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville AL

Scope:  Six historic rockets owned by the Smithsonian and on loan to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL, needed painting to preserve their structure and maintain them as one of the main visitor attractions at MSFC.  Peeling paint and rusted areas had developed on the Rocket Park rocket bases and on rocket bodies, whose construction ranged from pre-World War II to 1965. 

Customer:  NASA’s contractor was Burkett Construction Co. Inc. of Huntsville.

Vulcan Painters met all the specifications of this unique project.  The specifications required a contractor certified to ISO or SSPC standards, or equivalent, with 3 years of experience blasting recyclable media and using the required paint systems on similar projects. Specifications also required a containment system in accordance with SSPC Technology Guide No. 6, the Guide for Containing Surface Preparation Debris Generated during Paint Removal Operations.    A lead-containing paint removal plan, and capture and collection of paint chips, blast media and other debris was specified, and the contractor was responsible for recording and submitting for approval all graphic markings, to include lettering, for each rocket before surface preparation, so that each one could be repainted to match pre-weathered finish conditions.  The specs also included matching wire size and fastening techniques on bird and wildlife barriers.  Equipment on site included 80-ft. and 120-ft. man lifts and a crane with 190 feet of boom.

Paint systems:  The rocket support bases were blasted to an SSPC SP-6 commercial blast finish using an aluminum oxide grit encapsulated in polymer sponge, a method that produces 90% less dust than traditional blasting. Rocket bases were primed with Sherwin-Williams Macropoxy HS high solids epoxy and finished with Hi Solids Polyurethane. Rocket bodies were cleaned to SSPC SP-3 standard, to remove flaking and loose paint.   Employing the glove bag method of containment, painters used power hand tools to remove and contain loose paint, dust and chips, and vacuum them up. After sanding, chalking paint was sealed. Rust spots were spot primed with one coat of Pro-cryl Universal Primer, followed by two coats of Sherwin Williams DTM Acrylic Coating.

Carefully measured lettering was reapplied using stencils and DTM Acrylic “Safety Red.”

Awards:  This project received SSPC’s George Campbell Award for outstanding achievement in the completion of a difficult or complex industrial coatings project.