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 Post subject: Black Arrow comes home
PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2019 10:52 am 
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Fifty years ago the British-built satellite ,Prospero, was the only one to be launched on a British rocket, the cancelled Black Arrow. The rocket took off on 28th October 1971, 280 miles from Adelaide, sent Prospero into orbit, then crash landed in the Australian outback. Prospero's role was to study the space environment on satellites.
The wreck of the Black Arrow has been retrieved by Skyrora, a space technology company, who will put the rocket remnant on public display at Penicuik near Edinburgh. The director of Skyrora, Daniel Smith, said: "This is quite feasibly the most important artifact linked to the UK's space history" .. "With the British Government aiming to make us a launch nation again, it seems like a 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 for a planned spaceport for vertical launches in Sunderland.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2019 12:12 pm 
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I believe it is the first stage which of course would not reach orbit. The science museum have a Black Arrow on display that was never launched.

I believe the new aviation museum in the IoW are building a replica of Black Arrow for display as it was built and test run on the ground on the IoW. I love the images of the High Test Hydrogen Peroxide arriving in tankers on the IoW ferry - not sure that modern Health and Safety procedures would allow that !

When I visited the test site I was told that one of the storage tanks started going critical and heating up which would have resulted in an explosion. Not very good for those nearby as it dissolves human tissue ! The solution to the problem was to empty the tank down the cliff at Highdown - it did not do the rabbits much good !

If you watch the films of people working with High Test Hydrogen Peroxide on British Pathe the safety procedures were not only protective clothing but also a person standing by with a running fire hose ready to wash off anyone who was splashed. They also had static water tanks that people who were splashed could be thrown in - they needed to ensure victims were completely submerged with their eyes open !

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Last edited by JohnM on Wed Jan 23, 2019 5:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2019 2:45 pm 
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I remember that the recent superb Television "Coast" series visited the test site on the IOW and the presenter spoke to some of the retired workers. And tried to locate signals from the satellite still in orbit. Was it called "Prospero" ?Regards maf.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2019 5:41 pm 
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Mike you are correct - it is still in orbit. Satellite ID is 5580 if you want to look it up on Heavens Above. It is passing overhead at around 00:41 however it is < mag 9.9 and moving quite fast so observing it is a challenge. I tried imaging it without success when it was around mag 7.

I remember the Coast programme well - they said they picked the signal up but the radio frequency has been reallocated to several satellites since then and it is debatable if they actually picked up the signal. The satellite was supposed to be put in a radio quite mode at the end of it's life. There is a flight spare of Prospero in the Science Museum display as well.

There is a picture of the flight spare below - I could not get an image of Black Arrow as I needed a much wider lens and a tripod plus a means of removing several hundred school kids !

There is also a display on Britain in Space at the FAST museum at Farnborough, this has a bit on Black Arrow and Prospero.


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File comment: Prospero flight Spare as displayed at the Science Museum London
20180130-131736-small.jpg
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2019 8:58 am 
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At 00.41 U.T. at this time of year it will be deep into eclipse and not reflecting Sunlight.
By spring it should be better placed and around mag +7.5 on good transits, as will
its last stage rocket.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2019 1:52 pm 
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stella wrote:
At 00.41 U.T. at this time of year it will be deep into eclipse and not reflecting Sunlight.
By spring it should be better placed and around mag +7.5 on good transits, as will
its last stage rocket.


The best upcoming pass is on 24 March 2019 when it reaches Mag 5.6 and 31 March 2019 when it is predicted to reach mag 5.3 from the South of London.

I suspect in the low passes it is moving faster so is more difficult to image with a static camera. This is due to the image being on a pixel for less time so less chance of recording it. I always find it difficult to know if a wide angle lens with a low f number and therefore a small image is better than a longer lens or a telescope with a higher f number. I always want to use a long focal length lens but suspect a wide angle lens might be better ?

It really needs a telescope setup to track the satellite but I don't have the technology for that though people succeed with things like the ISS.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2019 10:25 am 
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Regarding what you said John in your first post about the corrosiveness of Hydrogen Peroxide
fuel for Black Arrow.
When I was eight, I came running into the kitchen from outdoors on a hot summer's day to quench my thirst. Mum was in the front room and she'd placed what I thought was a glass of water on the sink top. I considered that very convenient and immediately knocked it back.
This was followed by an intense burning sensation in the throat. My response was to refill the glass from the tap and drink it down. This was quickly followed by several more top-ups.
When the burning had subsided, I went to Mum and asked her why the water had been so awful. Horrified, she replied that I'd downed a glass of Hydrogen Peroxide that she was using to clean her dentures!
I've sometimes wondered if the incident has had any long-term health effects. Maybe. In 2002, age 60, I developed and had major surgery for gullet cancer.. .

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Last edited by brian livesey on Thu Jan 31, 2019 3:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2019 12:00 pm 
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Brian,

Sorry to hear about that - the only good thing is that it was probably quite dilute - I beleive the normal strength you can get is around 5% which is used for hair bleaching.

A lorry carrying what I think may have been a small quantity of Hi-Test Hydrogen Peroxide exploded on the M25 in 2005 see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4197500.stm

I suspect it might have been taking it to the person who was building a manned jet pack in Surrey powered by several motors running on Hydrogen Peroxide.

The Germans also had a 'rocket powered' fighter in WW2 that ran on HTP - I think it killed more pilots and ground crew than Allied Bomber crew it was intended for.

I hate to think what would have happened if a tanker carrying HTP on the Isle of Wight Ferry or in Cowes had exploded.

John Murrell

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2019 9:18 pm 
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Eric Brown flew about 500 aircraft types including the Me 163 Komet.
This rocket powered interceptor reached 700 mph earlier in 1944, an unofficial world record speed.

I think that the rate of climb was about 30,000ft per minute, unheard of by other aircraft at that time.
Many aircraft have faster climb speeds nowadays.

The Bell X1 was also rocket powered, a copy of the British Miles M152 aircraft, which was jet powered, and would gave been the first through the sound barrier, if we hadn't given it to America.

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David


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2019 3:10 pm 
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Interestingly, the Komet-type engine was used on the Apollo lunar landers. This was because the engine is very reliable and doesn't require a spark plug: imagine being marooned on the Moon because of a faulty spark plug.
The Komet had to glide powerless in a spiral back to base, which made it an easier target for allied pilots. The Messerschmidtt jet fighters also had to come down in a slow ( powered ) spiral before they could land. This also made them vulnerable to being knocked out. Bell X1 pilot, Chuck Jaeger, the first pilot to break the sound barrier, admitted to picking one off as it was landing.

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Last edited by brian livesey on Sat Feb 02, 2019 3:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2019 3:33 pm 
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There are some films of the Black Arrow tests on the British Pathe Site and on UTube.

Many more details of the rockets development are in the book 'The Vertical Empire'. I did not realsise that one of the rockets (not Black Arrow) had the upper stage upside down pointing at the Earth ! :o

The idea was to increase the speed to test the re-entry heat shield for the ICBM carrying a nuclear warhead. The headshield was constructed from Asbestos and resin so pretty lethal !! :shock:

There is a bit about these rockets in the FAST museum in Farnborough but I can't remember if they have an actual heatshield - they might still be classified.

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Last edited by JohnM on Thu Jan 31, 2019 10:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2019 3:39 pm 
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Notice, too, that the fins on earlier rockets have been dispensed with. The Black Arrow engines were gimbaled, so the rocket could be guided without fins.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2019 10:26 pm 
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I had a quick look at my copy of A Vertical Empire and some of the test re-entry heads were copper - they did not get hot enough to oxidise and leave a trail so that they were not easy to spot with optical missile detectors.

The book is rather chilling in places - it has an assessment of the possibility of the V Bomber force surviving their 3 minute warning take off. The assumption is that the enemy would explode an airbust weapon over the airfield at T +3 which would take out any aircraft on the airfield plus any that were still within a radius of 14 miles. The 2nd assumption is that they would explode another two weapons around 24 miles away on the predicted flight paths to catch any bombers that made a quick takeoff. There was an assumption the V force would be dispersed to 50 airfields so at around 5 nukes per airbase this would have resulted in 250 nuclear bombs !!! :shock:

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 10:02 am 
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I am not sure if we had enough Victors, Vulcans and Valiants to fill 50 airbases, but 50 bases would need to be attacked.
It is unlikely even with 250 nuclear bombs they would get every bomber.
If only 5 got through they would have not all reached their target.
However, even two would have done a lot of damage.

In the 1950s in Kent there were U.S.fighter aircraft with pilots willing to fly one way missions as they didn't have the range to get back.
I think that each aircraft was armed with a nuclear bomb ready for quick take off.
They barely made take off on a very long runway as they were so heavy.
There was heavy lethal security there.
So it wasn't just the V bombers that had to be stopped.

Whatever the plans, somehow we survived those difficult times.
Putin seems to want to revive them.

I used to follow V bombers daily with my Starboy 3 inch refractor with 80x filar micrometer eyepiece.
I measured a Victor at 63,000 ft height and wrote to the makers asking why it exceeded the claimed ceiling of 50,000 ft. I am still waiting a reply.
The white aircraft looked incredibly high with unaided eyes when it flew overhead.
A Victor famously broke the sound barrier in a shallow dive, maybe over Hatfield.
The RAF got fed up paying for broken windows.
All the multitude of aircraft makers then, replied to my requests for photos and I had a large collection of large photos, brochures etc.
I doubt they would be so generous nowadays.

At Farnborough air shows breaking the sound barrier was common, as well as 9g turns within the airfield.
Until the DH110 accident that killed about 28 people when everything changed.

A Vulcan apparently got to over 80,000 ft with no bombs and minimum fuel in an unofficial attempt. More or less glided down.
A Canberra also took a photo of a U2 at operational height, from above the U2.

I used to regularly follow these V bombers for 200 miles, sometimes 250 miles in the refractor.
They were probably near the Scottish border by then.
It is probable that they were armed with live bombs.
Sometimes I would see them coming way off, so the total track seen was 350 miles or more.

I recorded 100,000 aircraft observations when young, eventually I could recognise most by sound.
The total now is anything from 200,000 to 400,000 depending what one considers to be an observation.

Quite a bit of snow yesterday evening and night. However, it is barely enough at a couple of inches to really be called snow.
What amazes me is how we grind to a halt at the first sign of snow. It is pretty pathetic, compared to how the Nordic countries and Switzerlamd cope.
It was minus 6C yesterday morning.

Regards,
David


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