Black Arrow rocket

UK’s first rocket returning home after 48 years

Image credit: pa

The UK’s first and only rocket to successfully launch a satellite into orbit has finally been returned to its home country 48 years after it came down to Earth in South Australia.

Black Arrow was a British satellite-carrier rocket developed during the 1960s and used for four launches between 1969 and 1971.

Its final flight was the first and only successful orbital launch to be conducted by the United Kingdom, and placed the Prospero satellite into low Earth orbit.

The rocket is to be unveiled in Scotland after a 10,000-mile journey back home. It has been lying at its crash landing site in the South Australian outback for more than 48 years.

Over time it was damaged by extreme weather and vandalism, but then space technology firm Skyrora stepped in to return it home.

The rocket - described as “the most important artefact” of the UK’s space industry - is to go on display in Penicuik, Midlothian, later this month.

Daniel Smith, director at Skyrora, said: “This is quite feasibly the most important artefact linked to the UK’s space history.

“While our engineers have been working on our own launches, our STEM ambassadors have been arranging all of this in the background.

“We’ll be unveiling it in Penicuik later this month, not far from our headquarters and workshop in Edinburgh.

“With the UK Government aiming to make us a launch nation again, it seemed like the perfect time to bring Black Arrow back.

“We really hope the rocket will help to inspire current and future generations of scientists and engineers.”

The UK Space Agency has previously announced £2.5m of funding for a proposed vertical launch spaceport in Sutherland

In November, two European companies agreed on a lucrative deal to build communications satellite components in the UK which was described as a “vote of confidence” for the UK space sector amid Brexit turmoil. 

The Black Arrow’s journey home saw it transported across land and sea - making the trip from the Australian desert to Edinburgh via Adelaide.

Skyrora has also commissioned a plaque to be placed where Black Arrow had lain.

Dr Graham Turnock, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “Black Arrow is testament to Britain’s longstanding heritage in the space sector which continues to thrive today.

“The Government’s Spaceflight Programme includes a series of education and outreach activities which I hope will play a major role in inspiring the next generation of space scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs.”

Black Arrow rocket

Image credit: pa

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