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Prospero launched, Black Arrow died 40 years ago

October 28, 2011 - UNITED KINGDOM

The last flight of the British satellite carrier rocket, Black Arrow, happened on 28 Oct 1971 from the Woomera Rocket Range in Australia. Black Arrow placed the British Prospero satellite into orbit for its final flight. The 40th anniversary will be marked with an attempt to contact the satellite. The anniversary could also energize Britain's attempt to get back into the space race. The Skylon reusable space plane is being developed to send ships into Space in one leap, not in stages, as now. The Oct 1971 launch of Black Arrow, Britain's only indigenous launch vehicle, was permitted following the cancellation of the Black Arrow project in Jul 1971. Developed during the 1960s, Black Arrow was used for four launches between 1969 and 1971.

The last flight of the British satellite carrier rocket, Black Arrow, happened on 28 Oct 1971 from the Woomera Rocket Range in Australia. Black Arrow placed the British Prospero satellite into orbit for its final flight. The 40th anniversary will be marked with an attempt to contact the satellite. The anniversary could also energize Britain's attempt to get back into the space race. The Skylon reusable space plane is being developed to send ships into Space in one leap, not in stages, as now. The Oct 1971 launch of Black Arrow, Britain's only indigenous launch vehicle, was permitted following the cancellation of the Black Arrow project in Jul 1971. Developed during the 1960s, Black Arrow was used for four launches between 1969 and 1971. The 145-pound Prospero spacecraft, launched aboard a Black Arrow rocket, was the first and last British satellite to go aloft on a British launch vehicle. It carried detectors to measure the density of high-speed micrometeoroid particles of space dust in the Earth's upper atmosphere. The probe operated successfully until 1973. Talking to the probe in October, which was last contacted in 1996, will be a challenge because the unit that built the satellite has been disbanded and radio frequency issues could get in the way. The scientists speculate that if they succeed in contracting the probe, they might find that some of the experiments are still working. The BBC notes that the success would also mean the team can call themselves the world's first astro-archaeologists. The demise of NASA's space shuttle program has revitalized interest in the private or public/private development of spacecraft. Under development by Reaction Engines, Skylon is described as a revolutionary, pilotless, reusable spaceplane that is currently in a proof-of-concept phase but which, it is hoped, will be carrying cargoes of up to 12 tons into space by 2020. It will take off like an airliner, cruise into space, release a cargo of up to 12 tons and then power down to a landing, on a runway, like a jet, potentially a 10-times cheaper launch system than the conventional method with rocket stages. (WRITTEN Sep 2011)

Plan to revive 1970s UK satellite (BBC 5 Sep 2011)

Black Arrow (Encyclopedia Astronautica)

'Skylon' space plane aims to fill void left by Discovery (CNN 10 Mar 2011)

Skylon (Reaction Engines)

Date written/update: 2011-10-28