Black Arrow returns home after 48 years

Posted on 16 Feb 2019 and read 1566 times
Black Arrow returns home after 48 years A rocket brought 10,000 miles home from the Australian outback was greeted by politicians, the UK Space Agency, the
Royal Air Force and leading space industry figures in Midlothian at the end of January.

Almost 50 years since its original launch, the Black Arrow rocket was unveiled (at the Penicuik depot of Bishop’s Move) after Edinburgh-based Skyrora decided to transport the vehicle back to the UK from its landing site in South Australia to be used for educational outreach.

Black Arrow was developed and tested by a team of engineers on the Isle of Wight, and the programme culminated in the
launch of the Prospero satellite by the third flight from Australia — the first UK-led orbital launch.

Skyrora (, which will begin testing its own orbital vehicle’s upper-stage engine in Cornwall in the near future, arranged for two of the project’s original engineers — Derek Mack (86) and Mike Kelleway (78) — to make the pilgrimage from the Isle of Wight (via Southampton Airport) to attend the event.

Mr Mack, who was the programme’s senior trials engineer and was present for the launch in 1971, said: “As soon as I saw Black Arrow again, it was like being reunited with an old friend.

“I spent 10 weeks straight working on the project before the launch, so to see it again really is remarkable.

“The fact that the rocket is still in such good condition after all this time shows it was built to last.

“That Skyrora will be using technologies — in particular, a fuel oxidiser — inspired directly by Black Arrow is also
a source of great pride.”

Skyrora, which is just 20 months old, has developed a team comprising 120 people at its headquarters in Edinburgh and in six workshops around Europe.

The company is currently searching for a permanent engine-testing site in the Lothians.

It aims to capture a share of the fast-growing market for launching small satellites and has already created two separate prototype rocket engines.

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