Photo: Curt Thienes 1959


Midway between the Main Camp and the Nike sites was the Missile Assembly and Checkout Area. A contingent of Ordnance men was stationed at the camp to handle these dangerous tasks. They would unpack the Nike Ajax from its metal shipping container and run a thorough checkout on the guidance control system. The three HE warheads would be installed and the booster mated to the missile. Boosters were shipped to the camp in the plywood boxes seen in the photo. The missile was not physically attached to the booster, it fit snugly in a conical adapter mounted on the top of the booster. An arming lanyard was connected between booster and missile. Seconds after launch, as the booster thrust began to decay, the booster would fall away, pulling the arming lanyard which started the missile's sustainer engine.

The men wore "Moon Suits" to fuel the missile. Moon Suits were made of heavy rubber and had hoods to protect the wearer from the highly volatile Inhibited Red Fuming Nitric Acid (IRFNA) used as oxidizer for the JP-4 jet fuel. A Missile Transport Trailer would haul two Nikes at a time down range to the launch area. There the missiles were mounted on a rail system, usually holding three Nikes awaiting their turn to be launched. There was only one booster fin installed when the missile arrived at the launcher because of limited space on the Transport Trailer. The Launch Crew would install the remaining two booster fins after the missile was mounted on the rails. Checkout procedures continued until the Nike was declared ready to fire.