Restoring the Agena A and Agena B Rockets

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WASHINGTON – What does it take to restore two 1960s-era rockets to their pre-launch appearance?

For the U.S. Air Force, the effort requires a nearly 150-page request for proposals.

Agena A and Agena B, a member of the Atlas family of rockets, launched 33 times from 1960-1966, were used to lift the Ranger lunar spacecraft and the Mariner Venus fly-by spacecraft into orbit. Today, each of the rockets is on display outside the Air Force Space and Missile Museum at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Years of outdoor display in what the service describes as “a semi-marine atmosphere,” means the rockets are in need of new paint and some general freshening up. In a series of photos posted to the Federal Business Opportunities web site in July, the rockets are shown with peeling and cracking paint and patches of corrosion. Now, as part of an effort to restore the rockets, the Air Force is looking for a small business to repair damaged sheet metal, repaint the boosters, and emblazon the rockets with their original insignias and stenciling. In accompanying documentation, the Air Force makes clear the vintage wheels the rockets sit on are not to be replaced.

The Air Force does not yet have funding for the restoration, according to the proposal. Responses are due Aug. 28.

Here is what the rockets look like today:

The nose cone of the Agena B rocket.
The nose cone of the Agena B rocket. Credit: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

 

Agena B rocket
Paint peeling and cracking on the aft nozzle of the Agena B rocket.

 

Agena B rocke
The midsection of the Agena B rocket.

 

The top of the Agena A rocket's aft side
The top of the Agena A rocket’s aft side. Credit: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

 

Engine nozzle of the Agena A rocket
The engine nozzle of the Agena A rocket. Credit: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

 

The missile engine compartment of the Agena A rocket
The missile engine compartment of the Agena A rocket. Credit: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.