Remote Sprint Launcher #3 Missile Site – Cavalier, North Dakota - Atlas Obscura

Cavalier, North Dakota

Remote Sprint Launcher #3 Missile Site

Part of a secret 1970s nuclear defense program is now open to the public. 

This hidden gem is a must-see for those interested in Cold War history. Located about 30 miles from the North Dakota Pyramid, this Remote Sprint Launcher (RSL) is part of the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex built in the 1970s to shoot down incoming nuclear weapons.

The site itself contains 30 old Sprint and Spartan missile silos, and it’s in the process of placing a Sprint replica into one of them. Sprint missiles were developed in the early 1970s specifically to intercept missiles re-entering the atmosphere, and the Mickelsen complex held 16 of them in total.

In mere seconds, these missiles could travel at over 7,600 miles per hour, and they generated temperatures of up to 6,200 degrees Fahrenheit. High production costs and the emergence of the daunting Soviet MIRV missiles, however, meant that Sprints saw a very short period of production. Sprint silos like those at the RSL are thus rare windows into a brief and terrifying moment in American history.

The RSL, which also features a large underground bunker designed to survive a near miss from a nuclear missile, is applying to become a registered National Historic Landmark. The tours are small, the staff is friendly and informative, and the site is—luckily for all of us—in good shape.

Know Before You Go

Tours run every day. They are free for children five and under and $12 for adults.

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