Sixties City Index Page

Animals In Space      Manned Space Missions      Unmanned Space Missions      The Soviet Spaceflight Program and Cosmonauts      The British Space Program       Was The Apollo Moon Landing Fake?

Towards Space
High-altitude flights began in 1942 when the German V2 became the first rocket to reach 100km (62.14miles - considered to be the boundary of space) from the Earth's surface. When the Allies advanced through Germany during the final weeks of World War II the American and Russian armies approached from opposite directions in an attempt to obtain the secrets of the German rocket programme and the scientists who had developed the world’s first long-range guided ballistic missile. The Russians succeeded in capturing the German rocket centre at Peenemünde, an underground production factory and several unused V2s but the programme director, 33-year old Wernher von Braun, and 126 of his fellow scientists surrendered themselves to the Americans, bringing with them a huge amount of top-secret technical papers.

'Operation Paperclip' was a programme that allowed the Germans to sign work contracts with the US government and they were moved to America by the Office of Strategic Services. Initially they were sent to Fort Bliss, New Mexico, where they started to design the rockets that would give America the edge in the 'Cold War' but were later moved to Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama, to work on the Saturn V design. Wernher von Braun was to be a key member of the NASA team that designed the lunar landing launch vehicles.

The first 'animals' were launched into space in 1947 when fruit flies were used to study the effects of space travel on animals. These were selected because of their strange similarities to the human body and system. Albert II was the first 'monkey' into space. The Rhesus monkey was launched into space on 14th June 1949 using an American adaptation of the V2 rocket, achieving an altitude of 83 miles. There were probably a lot more live 'animals' sent up in high altitude and orbital flights than most people realise. Some are mentioned here - see the full list on the 'Animals In Space' page.
Note: reported early launch dates, particularly for Soviet missions, tend to vary from source to source so should be taken as a guideline rather than definitive.


Mercury 3

Mercury 4

Mercury 6

Mercury 7

Mercury 8

Mercury 9


NASA Gemini 2

Gemini 3

Gemini 4

Gemini 5

Gemini 6

Gemini 7

Gemini 8

Gemini 9

Gemini 10

Gemini 11

Gemini 12


NASA Apollo

Apollo 1

Apollo 7

Apollo 8

Apollo 9

Apollo 10

Apollo 11

Apollo 12

Apollo 13

Apollo 14

Apollo 15

Apollo 16

Apollo 17

Apollo 18 / 19 / 20

Apollo 18/19/20 ?
The Space Age
The world entered the 'space age' on 4th October 1957 at 19:28:34 UTC (GMT) with the launch of the Sputnik 1 rocket and satellite (designated PS1) into low earth orbit by the Soviet Union and the 'race for space' was on. The second core stage of the R-7 Semyorka launch vehicle remained in a decaying orbit for two months until 2nd December 1957.

Sputnik had a diameter of 22ins, weighed 184lbs and circled the Earth once every 96minutes. Travelling at 18,000 miles an hour, its elliptical orbit had a farthest point (apogee) of 584 miles and a nearest point (perigee) of 143 miles and it was visible with binoculars before sunrise and after sunset. Sputnik transmitted radio signals strong enough to be picked up by amateur radio operators for 22 days, until its batteries ran out on 26th October, and it burned up on atmospheric re-entry after completing 1,440 orbits, a distance of about 43.5 million miles. Hear Sputnik

A second spacecraft was launched into Earth orbit by the U.S.S.R. on November 3rd 1957 and was the first to carry a live animal into orbit. Three dogs were trained for the flight: Albina, Mushka and a part-Samoyed female mongrel dog re-named Laika ('Barker'), originally a stray dog from the streets of Moscow, who was finally selected. Although the animal's 'mission' was planned to last ten days, on reaching orbit the vehicle's interior temperature rapidly climbed to over 40°C (100 °F) and Laika survived for only a few hours.
Sputnik 2 burned up on re-entry into Earth's atmosphere on 14th April 1958 after 162 days and 2,570 orbits. The Sputnik 2 flight caused a major public outcry against the use, and killing, of animals in experiments in general and spaceflight in particular.

As one result (although more likely a natural progression), future space flights carrying dogs were designed to be recovered. The only other dogs definitely known to have died during Soviet space missions were Pchyolka and Mushka, when Sputnik 3 was purposely destroyed with explosives to prevent foreign powers examining the capsule when its re-entry trajectory went off target on December 1st 1960.
Sputnik 1

Luna 1 The news of these successes were a surprise and shock to the American public and became an immediate cause of concern for both national pride and, at the heart of the 'cold war', was perceived as a significant defence issue as the R-7 rocket was actually designated as an ICBM capable of delivering nuclear warheads. It prompted a vigorous response from the American government to ensure that the United States did not, technologically, fall behind its Communist rival.

The Race For Space
The Americans joined the 'space race' on January 31st 1958 at 22:48 Eastern Time (February 1st 03:48 UTC) when a Juno LC-26 booster was launched by the U.S. Army from Cape Canaveral carrying the Explorer 1 satellite into orbit as part of U.S. participation in the International Geophysical Year. The 30lb satellite remained in orbit until 1970 and was responsible for discovering the existence of the Van Allen radiation belts.

On October 1st 1958 NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) was created to replace the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics and remove any obvious direct involvement with the U.S. armed forces. The Project Mercury manned space program, formed under the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, was officially approved on October 7th 1958 and publicly announced on December 17th. Its goal was to put a functional, manned spacecraft into orbit, before the Soviet Union, and retrieve it successfully and safely.

1959 proved to be quite an eventful year for the Soviets, starting with the Luna 1 launch on January 2nd. Intended to hit the moon, it missed and was the first man-made object to achieve solar orbit. Luna 2, launched on September 12th, was more successful and, the following day, became the first man-made object to impact the lunar surface.

October 4th saw the launch of Luna 3 which achieved lunar orbit and gave us the first images of 'the dark side' that always faces away from the Earth.

The Mercury Program
Although NASA originally intended open competition to choose its first astronauts, Eisenhower insisted on existing test pilots. Limited space inside the Mercury capsule restricted a candidates' height to 5ft 11ins and a maximum weight of 180lbs (82 kg). They had to be under 40, holding a bachelor's degree, or equivalent, and have jet flying experience with at least 1,500 hrs flying time logged.

The initial advertisement among military test pilots attracted more than 500 applications, from which NASA selected 110 'possibles' - 5 Marines, 47 Navy and 58 Air Force. The conditions at that time excluded NACA's X-15 test pilot Neil Armstrong as he was a civilian. These were divided into three groups, of which only two groups - sixty-nine men - were subjected to extensive physical stress tests and mental exams, including hours on treadmills and tilt tables, extended submersion of feet in ice water, doses of castor oil and multiple enemas. The final group was never assessed due to the high qualification rate from the first two.

Of the 69, 6 were rejected as being too tall, 33 failed, or dropped out, during the first round of tests and 4 declined to take part in further tests, leaving 26, of which 18 passed the second round of tests. The seven men, known as the 'Mercury 7' hence the '7' after the vehicle names, finally picked for the Mercury program were:

Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. (1923-1998) U.S. Navy (2 space flights)
MR-3 (Freedom 7) - May 1961 First manned Mercury flight.
Shepard became the first American in space
Apollo 14 - January 1971 - Commander Third manned lunar landing. Shepard became the 5th man to walk on the moon

Virgil Ivan 'Gus' Grissom (1926-1967) U.S. Air Force (2 space flights)
MR-4 (Liberty Bell 7) - July 1961 The last suborbital Mercury flight. Liberty Bell 7 sank after splashdown and was not retrieved until 1999
Gemini 3 - March 1965 - Command Pilot First manned Gemini mission, first manned mission to change orbital plane. Grissom became the first person to be launched into space twice. He was to be the commander of Apollo 1 but was killed in a fire during a launch pad test in January 1967, a month before the mission.

John Herschel Glenn Jr. (b 1921) U.S. Marine Corps (2 space flights)
MA-6 (Friendship 7) - February 1962 First orbital Mercury flight. Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth
STS-95 Discovery Spacelab mission - October 1998 Glenn became the oldest person in space on this flight.

Malcolm Scott Carpenter (1925-2013) U.S. Navy (1 space flight)
MA-7 (Aurora 7) - May 1962 Second orbital Mercury mission

Walter Marty 'Wally' Schirra Jr. (1923-2007) U.S. Navy (3 space flights)
MA-8 (Sigma 7) - October 1962 Third orbital Mercury flight
Gemini 6A - December 1965 - Command Pilot First rendezvous in space, with Gemini 7
Apollo 7 - October 1968 - Commander First manned Apollo mission. Schirra became the first person to be launched into space three times and the only person to fly Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions.

Leroy Gordon 'Gordo' Cooper Jr. (1927-2004) U.S. Air Force (2 space flights)
MA-9 (Faith 7) - May 1963 Final Mercury mission and the first U.S. mission to exceed one day
Gemini 5 - August 1965 - Command Pilot First 8-day space mission and first use of fuel cells for electric power

Donald Kent 'Deke' Slayton (1924-1993) U.S. Air Force (1 space flight)
Apollo-Soyuz Test Project - July 1975 - Docking Module Pilot First joint American-Soviet space mission and the first docking of an American and Russian spacecraft.

Despite the extensive testing and medical examinations, two were subsequently found to have undiagnosed medical conditions. Slayton never took part in Mercury missions as an astronaut and Shepard was grounded after the Mercury program. The start of the Sixties saw manned spaceflight change from being the subject of science fiction stories in boys' comics into startling, exciting, scientific fact.

Prior to 1960 there had been a number of experimental vehicles launched but flights involving animals had been comparatively unsuccessful and inconclusive. Even when the Russians managed to put two Samoyed dogs, Belka and Strelka, into orbit for 24 hours in August 1960, and brought them back alive, it was still questionable whether human spaceflight would be possible.

The Mercury Seven
The 'Mercury Seven'
Grissom, Shepard, Carpenter, Schirra, Slayton, Glenn, Cooper

Cape Canaveral 1963
Cape Canaveral 1963

Mercury 13 - The Secret Astronauts
Yuri Gagarin and John F.Kennedy

Valentina Tereshkova
Mankind In Orbit
The American attempts to achieve technological 'one-upmanship' received another blow on 12th April 1961 when Major Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin blasted off at 07:07 hrs from the Baikonur site in Siberia, aboard the Vostok 1 3KA-3, shortly afterwards officially becoming the first human to travel into space, and the first to actually orbit the earth and return safely.

Gagarin had to bail out and land using his parachute as the Vostok 1 was designed to crash land. The Russians are believed to have made four unsuccessful manned space shots prior to 1961 in which it is thought that cosmonauts Serentsky Schiborin, Andrei Mitkov, Alexis Ledovski and Ivan Kachur lost their lives. (See Soviet Page)

Just a month later, on May 5th 1961, Alan Shepard became the second person in space, and the first American, in a suborbital flight. The MR-3 (Freedom 7) launch was originally planned for October 1960 but was postponed several times, eventually to March 6th 1961 and, finally, to May 5th by which time it had been pre-empted by the Soviets. Virgil 'Gus' Grissom also carried out a sub-orbital flight.

The new American President, John F. Kennedy, understood the nation's need to restore their pride and confidence and publicly stated his intention to not just follow and keep pace with the Soviets, but to overtake them. On May 25th 1961 he addressed Congress with a request for an additional $7 billion to $9 billion, over the next five years, for the development of the U.S. space program with the words "... this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth."               

JFK 'Space Speech' at Rice University 1962

Despite scepticism on NASA's ability to deliver, the money was granted and, within a year, America had put its own man into orbit. Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to achieve Earth orbit on February 20th 1962. He was the third person to do so, as Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Titov had, by then, made a one-day flight during August 1961. Launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, Friendship 7 achieved an altitude of 162 miles and an orbital velocity of 17,500 mph. It circled Earth three times in four hours and eventually splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean near Bermuda.

By the time the Mercury single pilot project ended with a day-long 22-orbit flight on May 16th 1963, being replaced by the Gemini two-man program, astronauts Scott Carpenter, Walter Schirra Jr., and L. Gordon Cooper had also orbited the Earth in increasingly extended mission times.

The Soviets launched Vostok 5 on 14th June 1963, piloted by Valery Bykovsky. This was followed, two days later, by the launch of Vostok 6 in which Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman into space, achieving 48 orbits over two days, twenty-two hours and fifty minutes, despite a number of technical issues and the limited space within her capsule. In this, the last of the Vostok missions, she actually logged more flight time than all the previous American astronauts combined. At one point the two Soviet space vehicles were within about three miles of each other.

Male Russian cosmonauts always had one 'double' appointed but Valentina Tereshkova had two of them - Valentina Ponomareva and Irina Solovyova. The State Commission justified this by saying that the female body was worse than the load. After going through the same training programmes as the main participant of the events, the 'doubles' after Tereshkova’s flight not only did not receive any honours but generally remained unknoen and secret figures for a very long time.

Valentina Leonidovna Ponomareva:
“For many people of our generation, the flight of Valentina Tereshkova to space meant no less, and perhaps even more, than the flight of Gagarin. For us, members of the first women's group of cosmonauts, this has become the crown of a lifetime. I think I will not be mistaken in saying that the period until the group existed was for us all the most dramatic, the brightest, the most significant and the most difficult. A huge number of people and events of world significance fit in it"

In addition to the manned missions, Mercury performed 20 unmanned launches for project development, some including test animals, the most famous of which were the chimpanzees Ham and Enos. The United States and the U.S.S.R. spent huge amounts of money trying to outdo each other in the 'race for space', a contest which drove scientific advancement along at a phenomenal pace, providing new materials and technologies such as 'Teflon' and the laser. The spaceflight programme also brought us new heroes, tragedy and excitement.

The Gemini Program
Project Gemini carried out two unmanned flights, in 1964 and 1965, followed by ten manned flights, in 1965 and 1966, with the objectives of improving re-entry techniques, developing orbital manoeuvres, EVAs and link-ups and further examining the effects of prolonged spaceflight on the human body in support of the planned subsequent Apollo program.

All Gemini missions were launched from Cape Canaveral and used the Titan II 'GLV' launch vehicle. The Soviets carried out the first 'space walk' on March 18th 1965 when Voskhod 2, manned by Commander Pavel I. Belyayeu and Pilot Alexei A. Leonov, saw the latter achieve a 12-minute EVA outside of the orbiting craft.

Sixteen American astronauts flew on the 10 manned Gemini missions, only 3 of whom had been involved with the Mercury program:

Leroy Gordon Cooper Jr. (Gemini 5 Command Pilot)
Virgil Ivan 'Gus' Grissom (Gemini 3 Command Pilot)
Walter Marty 'Wally' Schirra Jr. (Gemini 6A Command Pilot)

The 'new boys' were:

Neil A. Armstrong (Gemini 8 Command Pilot), Frank Borman (Gemini 7 Command Pilot)
Charles 'Pete' Conrad (Gemini 5 Pilot and Gemini 11 Command Pilot), James A. Lovell (Gemini 7 Pilot and Gemini 12 Command Pilot)
James A. McDivitt (Gemini 4 Command Pilot), Thomas P. Stafford (Gemini 6A Pilot and Gemini 9 Command Pilot)
Edward H. White II (Gemini 4 Pilot), John W. Young (Gemini 3 Pilot and Gemini 10 Command Pilot)
Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin (Gemini 12 Pilot), Eugene A. Cernan (Gemini 9 Pilot), Michael Collins (Gemini 10 Pilot)
Richard F. Gordon (Gemini 11 Pilot), David R. Scott (Gemini 8 Pilot)

Gemini 3 March 23rd 1965 - the seventh manned US spaceflight, and the final manned flight controlled from Cape Canaveral, Florida before mission control was moved to Houston, Texas.
Gemini 4 June 3rd 1965 - Edward H. White became the first American to make a 'space walk' (EVA - extravehicular activity).
Gemini 5 carried out the 8-day endurance tests in support of the planned Apollo lunar mission using fuel cells to generate electrical power.
Gemini 6A and 7 carried out the first space rendezvous, in December 1965, with Gemini 7 setting a 14-day space endurance record.
Gemini 8 carried out the first space docking with an unmanned Agena Target Vehicle.
Gemini 11 achieved a manned Earth orbit altitude record of 739.2 nautical miles in September 1966 by using the propulsion system of its Agena target vehicle.
Gemini 12 Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin was the first astronaut to prove that significant useful work could be undertaken outside of a spacecraft, without life-threatening exhaustion.
Gemini 3    Gemini 4

Gemini 6-A    Gemini 12 Agena Target
Apollo 11 on launch pad Apollo - Reaching For The Moon
As space exploration continued through the 1960s, the United States was on its way to the Moon. The Apollo 3-man Program followed Project Gemini. Its sole goal was to land humans on the moon and assure their safe return to Earth. The Apollo missions and astronauts were:

AS-201 February 26th 1966 Crew: None
First unmanned flight of Saturn 1B and Block 1 CSM Sub-orbital flight to test ablative heat shield at orbital re-entry speed

AS-203 July 5th 1966 Crew: None
Unmanned observations of the behaviour of liquid hydrogen fuel in orbit to support design of S-IVB re-start capability

AS-202 August 25th 1966 Crew: None
Unmanned sub-orbital flight of CSM

On January 27th 1967 a tragedy occurred when, during a routine test of the 'Apollo 1' spacecraft on the launch pad, an electrical spark caused a fire in the crew compartment of the command module. The pure oxygen environment in the capsule led to rapid spreading of the fire, causing the deaths of Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee.

The Soviets suffered their own tragedy three months later on April 24th when Soyuz 1, launched the previous day, crashed after re-entry killing pilot Vladimir M. Komarov, the first 'official' Soviet spaceflight fatality.

Apollo 4 November 9th 1967 Crew: None
First unmanned test flight of Saturn V to place a CSM in a high Earth orbit. Testing of S-IVB re-start capability and CM heat shield at lunar re-entry speed

Apollo 5 January 22nd-23rd 1968 Crew: None
First unmanned Earth orbital flight of LM, to test ascent/descent propulsion and human support, launched on Saturn 1B

On March 27th 1968, the star that was Yuri Gagarin disappeared from the sky as he died in a mysterious air accident.

Apollo 6 April 4th 1968 Crew: None
Attempted test of trans-lunar injection and direct-return abort with SM engine. Three engine failures prevented the S-IVB restart. Flight control used SM engine to repeat the Apollo 4 flight profile.

Apollo 7 October 11th-22nd 1968 Crew: Walter Schirra, Walt Cunningham and Don Eisele
First manned Earth orbital demonstration of Block II CSM, launched on Saturn 1B. First live public television broadcast from a manned mission

Apollo 8 December 21st-27th 1968 Crew: Frank Borman, James Lovell, William Anders
First manned flight to the Moon. The CSM made 10 lunar orbits over 20 hours

Apollo 9 March 3rd-13th 1969 Crew: James McDivitt, David Scott, Russell Schweickart
First manned flight of CSM and LM in Earth orbit, testing the Portable Life Support System to be used on the lunar surface

Apollo 10 May 18th-26th 1969 Crew: Thomas Stafford, John Young, Eugene Cernan
Dress rehearsal for the first lunar landing. LM taken down to 50,000 feet (15 km) from lunar surface

Apollo 11 July 16th-24th 1969 Crew: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin
First manned moon landing. Surface EVA time: 2hrs 31mins 47.7lbs of rock samples collected

The first manned lunar landing took place on the Sea of Tranquillity at 02:56 GMT on 20th July 1969. Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the surface of the moon, at 03:56 BST on 21st July 1969, causing millions of us to stay up all night watching the television reports and live television coverage. "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind".
He was joined by his colleague Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin at 03:15 GMT

Prior to the Apollo 11 mission, both the USA and USSR were busy sending unmanned exploratory craft and objects to the lunar surface (either successfully or not) and there were already 31 man-made items on the surface (including his own craft) when Neil Armstrong took his first step.

Apollo 12 November 14th-24th 1969 Crew: Charles 'Pete' Conrad, Richard Gordon, Alan L. Bean
The second lunar landing, in the Ocean of Storms very near to the Surveyor 3 craft. Surface EVA time: 7hrs 45mins 75.7lbs of rock samples collected This was the last U.S. space flight of the 1960s

Apollo 13 April 11th-17th, 1970 Crew: James Lovell, Jack Swigert, Fred Haise
The third lunar landing attempt was aborted near the Moon, due to a Service Module failure. The crew used the Landing Module to return to Earth, as documented in the feature film.

Apollo 14 January 31st-February 9th 1971 Crew: Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa, Edgar Mitchell
The third lunar landing, in Fra Mauro. Surface EVA time: 9hrs 21mins 94.4lbs of rock samples collected

Apollo 15 July 26th-August 7th 1971 Crew: David Scott, Alfred Worden, James Irwin
The fourth lunar landing, and the first with an extended LM and 'lunar rover', landed in Hadley-Apennine. Surface EVA time: 18hrs 33mins 169lbs of rock samples collected

Apollo 16 April 16th-27th 1972 Crew: John Young, T. Kenneth Mattingly, Charles Duke
The fifth lunar landing, in Plain of Descartes. Surface EVA time: 20hrs 14mins 208.3lbs of rock samples collected

Apollo 17 December 7th-19th 1972 Crew: Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans, Harrison Schmitt
The sixth and last lunar landing, and final Apollo mission, landed in Taurus-Littrow. Surface EVA time: 22hrs 2mins 243.1lbs of rock samples collected.

The original estimate of Apollo Program costs was $7billion. The final cost of the project was reported to Congress in 1973 was $25.4 billion but later, in 2009, NASA recalculated the cost taking into account all ancillary equipment and 'soft' costs, coming up with a total estimate of c. $170 billion.
This made 'moon rock' the most valuable commodity on Earth. With 838.2lbs collected, this works out at about $12.7million per ounce or $447,289 per gram!

Space Junk
Moon Landing 1969
Vanguard 1, America's second satellite, still remains in orbit from March 17th 1958, orbiting the Earth at about 2,400 miles.
Their first satellite, Explorer 1, launched on February 1st 1958, fell from orbit in 1970. The first two Soviet Sputniks, launched in October and November of 1957, came down in 1958. The number now constantly varies, but as of 2000, the total number of working payloads and useless debris (anything from grapefruit-size upwards that can be tracked by ground radar) to enter orbit since 1957 was 25,976. Of those, 2,742 payloads and 5,991 pieces of junk were still in orbit with the remainder having re-entered the atmosphere and (mostly!) burned up.

Black Knight The British Space Program

Black Knight
In July 1955 Saunders-Roe, a company based on the Isle of Wight, began construction of a single-stage rocket known as 'Black Knight'. The first rocket was launched from Woomera, Australia, on 7th September 1958. At a cost of around £40k each, a total of 25 Black Knights were built of which 21 were launched, all successfully, between 1958 and 1965. One unit was used for ground tests and one, later on, to test range facilities for ELDO. The other two units (BK02 and BK22) are now in museums in Liverpool and Edinburgh.
The first nine were single-stage units and subsequent launches were a more powerful two-stage design. The Black Knight was never designed to be a satellite launch vehicle, merely an experimental platform for aerospace materials and re-entry tests and was abandoned in favour of the Black Arrow project. Ariel 1 The British space program really started in 1959 with the start of the project to construct the Ariel series of satellites. These were built jointly in the UK and USA and were launched into orbit using American rockets. The first of these, Ariel 1, was launched in 1962.

Blue Streak
The Blue Streak was an experimental 'Cold War' era British medium-range ballistic missile, intended to carry a 1 megaton thermonuclear device, that later was to become the first stage of the first European space launcher. Development began in the mid-Fifties, being designed and built by the de Havilland Aircraft Company with Rolls-Royce providing the rocket engines. The project encompassed cutting-edge technology for the time - its stainless steel skin needed to be as light as possible and was made so thin that it had to be kept pressurised to keep it rigid and stop it from collapsing under its own weight. Its specifications were: Diameter 10ft (3.04m) Length 60ft (18.28m) Range 2300 miles (3700km) Engine: Rolls Royce RZ2 rocket motor Burn time: 156 seconds (with a thrust of 836.3kN in vacuum). The slow rate of development and the cost of constructing the necessary underground launch silos resulted in the project, as a deterrent weapon, being cancelled in April 1960, having already cost £84million. Two Blue Streak rockets still exist - one at the National Space Centre in Leicester and another at the Museum of Flight, East Fortune, Scotland. Rather than waste the development of the launch capability of the Blue Streak it was decided to use it as the first stage of a planned all-British three-stage satellite launch vehicle called Black Prince. However, this was shelved in favour of working in co-operation with other European countries (ELDO) in order to reduce costs.

The Blue Streak Rocket

Black Arrow
After Black Knight, and along with its support for Blue Streak, the British government pushed funding into an effort to produce a satellite launch vehicle, resulting in the Black Arrow three-stage launcher project commenced in 1966. Five Black Arrows were built at the old J. Samuel White shipyard on the Isle of Wight and, over a 2-year period, were launched from Woomera.

The last of these succeeded in placing the British X3 satellite Prospero, (built by Marconi), into a polar orbit on 28th October 1971. It is still the only British satellite to be put into orbit aboard a British rocket as the Ministry of Defence subsequently cancelled the project as being too expensive. However, it makes Britain one of only five countries in the world to have launched their own satellite with their own technology, the others being the old USSR, the USA, France and China.

The fifth Black Arrow is now in the Science Museum in London. Prospero is actually still in orbit. Although no longer functioning for data gathering (the tape recorders it carried stopped working in 1973), the solar batteries continued working and it still transmitted a signal, last heard in 2000. The tracking station at RAF Lasham used to power it up on its 'birthday' until it was closed down around 1994.
University College London planned to 'wake it up' on its 40th birthday but the activation codes had been lost when the Lasham tracking facility closed.
You can still track its position online here

Europa 1 / Blue Streak
ELDO (European Launcher Development Organisation)was formed in the early 1960s and was a partnership between the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and Holland with Australia contributing the use of the launch facilities at Woomera. Europa 1, ELDO's first rocket, was essentially a redesigned version of Black Prince with Blue Streak providing the first stage, Coralie from France the second stage and Germany's Astris as the third stage. It was intended to use this vehicle to launch satellites constructed in the other member countries.

Although the first test launch of the Blue Streak stage on 5th June 1964, and three subsequent test launches, was successful, a successful marriage with the other two stages was never achieved - all of the 'hybrid' launches being destroyed in flight. The British government announced in 1968 that it was ending support of the Blue Streak development and Europa 1 was abandoned by ELDO in 1970.

ELDO carried out only 10 of their 11 planned launches.
F-1 (5th June 1964), F-2 (20th October 1964) and F-3 (22nd March 1965) all successfully tested the first stage
F-4 (24th May 1966) was terminated in flight after 136 seconds
F-5 (13th November 1966) successfully tested the first stage and carried 'dummy' second and third stages
F-6/1 (4th August 1967) carried two active stages with a 'dummy' third stage and satellite. The second stage failed to ignite.
F-6/2 (5th December 1967) tried to carry out the same test but failed to separate the first and second stages
F-7 (30th November 1968) carried three active stages and a satellite. The third stage exploded when the second stage ignited
F-8 (3rd July 1969) carried the same payload and suffered the same fate as F-7
F-9 (12th June 1970) managed to fire all three stages successfully but the satellite failed to achieve orbit

ELDO soldiered on with a new design, the four-stage Europa 2 that suffered a failed first launch on November 5th 1971.
An alternative Europa 3 design was considered but never brought into being due to lack of funds and the Europa project was finally abandoned in 1972. Following this, ELDO merged with ESRO (the European Space Research Organisation) to form the ESA (European Space Agency)

Once We Had A Rocket: The story of Britain's satellite launcher
Blue StreakBlack Arrow

Prospero and Black Arrow

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