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Thursday, May 12, 2005


I was having a drink with my brother the other day when the conversation turned, as it does (with us anyway), to space travel. He told me that in the 70s Britain launched our own satellite but Whitehall, being Whitehall, never mentioned it.

Being somewhat flabbergasted I asked him for a link & here it is:
What of the Black Knight development? The Black Arrow project was put into hand. Prototypes were built. Then this too was cancelled. A satellite was launched in 1971 with the hardware left over. British Government involvement in space research came effectively to an end at that point. There was to be a Services satellite communication system, Skynet, that relied on US launchers, but that was it.

There are several infuriating aspects to all of this. To produce a missile, and then realise it was the wrong missile. To convert it to a satellite launcher, one that looked to be highly successful, and then to cancel again. And the cancellation took place in the late 60s, when the uses of satellites in TV [the Tokyo Olympics of '64 were the first to be transmitted by satellite], telephone communications, weather observation were becoming apparent and obvious.
I like the understatement about several infuriating aspects. To be fair to Whitehall this programme was always aimed at giving us a nuclear capacity against the USSR. The problem with this (well the technological problem) is that Britain is a geographically small country 4 minutes missile time from Russia (the US is 15). To make a retaliatory strike, since there is no way a launch could be made before theirs got here, would require serious numbers of hardened silos spread around our island, some of which would inevitably be near cities. Polaris, when it became available, was a better option.

Of course if you regard the technological future of humanity as important then it is still well worth doing.

Amazing the things that don't get reported.

If this tickles you may I recommend Ministry of Space graphic novel

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