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01 April 2004 1405 BST
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Picture: The rocket Saturn V at the NASA space station
The rocket Saturn V at the NASA space station
Did you know Norfolk could have been home to Britain's answer to Cape Canaveral?

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Forty years ago Britain had an important space rocket programme. Three separate vehicles were being built - Blue Streak - the missile for delivering atomic warheads to Russia, Black Knight and Black Arrow rockets.


Watch the Blue Streak rocket take off

Use the BBC Webwise guide to downloading realplayer

Whilst development went on, a search began for a possible launch site and the North Norfolk coast made the shortlist.

The three top sites were the Outer Hebrides, Woomera in Australia and Brancaster at North Norfolk.

Brancaster was chosen as the launch site as it was believed the North Sea would provide the rockets a clear run.

Brancaster was also close enough for the important centres in the British Space Industry at Hatfield, Stevenage and London.

Picture: Map of plans for launch site
A map showing plans for the launch site

Previously top secret plans dating back to 1966 show the flight path of the rockets. The plans have only recently been released to the public.

But Brancaster spaceport never happened.

Each rocket would have most likely shed at least two stages during their flight into space.

As oil rigs slowly spread across the North Sea it was considered a very small, but still unacceptable risk to launch rockets overhead.

There were also ideas to make Brancaster the home for a spaceplane that could spy on the Russians.

But developments in technology and the satellite meant the spaceport never happened.

Recommended reading
By Sheila McKeown, a librarian at the Millennium Library in Norwich.

Escape from Earth, by Peter Ackroyd. Dorling Kindersley 2003. ISBN 1405300337.

Space Travel by Stuart Atkinson. Chrysalis 2003. ISBN 184138772x.

You can get hold of these books through your local library.

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