Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Black Arrow rocket replica under construction

Black Arrow Image copyright Black Arrow on the Wight
Image caption The model of the Black Arrow is being put together at a boat builders in Cowes

Work has begun on a full-size replica of the rocket that took the UK's first satellite into space.

Black Arrow was tested near The Needles on the Isle of Wight before it launched the Prospero satellite in 1971.

A 14m (46ft) replica is being built at AMC boat builders in Cowes to go on display at the island's planned new aviation museum.

Richard Curtis, who came up with the project, said the finished model would be "quite an attraction".

The 1,000lb (450kg) aluminium model will be taken in two parts to the site of the new museum at Sandown.

It will have a fibreglass nose cone made by a team from wind turbine builders Vestas Technology UK.

Image copyright Richard Curtis
Image caption The rocket is set to be an attraction at the Isle of Wight's aviation museum

Space enthusiast Mr Curtis said the original Black Arrow rockets were an "incredible achievement".

"They were essentially the fastest vehicle that Britain ever built - launching a payload into space at 17,000 miles an hour.

"So many people don't know about the history of rockets on the Isle of Wight, it'll be good to bring that to life. When you see a full-size rocket you really get sense of the scale of the achievement."

"The replica is fantastic - it's going to be quite impressive. When you see it being built it looks enormous."

Image copyright British Pathe
Image caption The rockets were tested at a facility at High Down on the Isle of Wight

It is hoped the replica will go on display at the newly-formed Wight Aviation Museum during the summer.

The museum will tell the story of aviation on the island over the last 120 years. Part of this will include a section on the rockets that were built and tested there.

Image copyright SPL
Image caption The Prospero spacecraft was launched atop a Black Arrow rocket on 28 October 1971

Isle of Wight's rockets

  • The Isle of Wight played a key role in Britain's space and nuclear missile programme in the 1960s and 70s
  • The rocket test site at High Down was converted from an old gun emplacement, and was used to test liquid rocket fuel engines
  • Some 200 people were employed
  • A rocket called Black Knight was built to test how rockets behaved both in space and when they re-entered the atmosphere
  • Its successor, Black Arrow, launched the Prospero satellite in 1971 from Woomera, Australia - the only British satellite successfully launched by a British rocket
  • A total of four Black Arrows were launched between 1969 and 1971
  • Funding for the space project was later withdrawn in favour of developing supersonic airliner Concorde

Image caption The remains of the testing site can still be seen on the Isle of Wight coast

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