Sidney Camm, the famous designer of aircraft manufacturer Hawker, once said that all modern aircraft had to get four dimensions right: Wingspan, lenghth, height and politics. The TSR2, which was the plane he referred to at the time, got the first three right.
This aircraft happens to be one of my favourite planes. It is long, big sleek and it was ahead of its time. The same story could be told about the Miles M.52, a small aircraft that would have broken the sound barrier before the Americans were it not that it got cancelled, something I did a story on a while ago here. The third victim of politics was the small but promising Black Arrow.
Although it had no wings and its length and height could be considered the same, this little rocket was something that, if it had been given a "go", might have been able to give Great Britain a very different place in technology, just like the M.52 and TSR2 would have done.
The British government chose to spend their budget differently and cancelled the high tech, innovating and costly projects. It not only cost the U.K. its vanguard position in aerospace technology but also a lot of jobs in the future. A shame? Who will tell?
The Black Arrow started out as an original satellite carrier. Its origins were, of course, rooted in the nuclear missile world but this version was specifically meant for launching objects into orbit.
After a while of testing the engines and equipment, the government cancelled the project. They had calculated that it would be cheaper to use American built Scout rockets for their launching activities. But since there already were four rockets built and ready, the government also gave a go ahead for testing them. They were shipped to an airbase in the Australian outback called Woomera. Here, the first one was launched and failed due to a faulty gimballing rocket motor. The Black Arrow veered off course and was destructed by the safety range officer. The second flight was successful although is still was suborbital. Flight number three was a failure again when the 2nd stage would not pressurise and the rocket fell back to the ground.
The last flight, number four, had a little satellite on board called Prospero, which reached orbit on 28 october 1971.
After that, it was over and out for the Black Arrow. There's a fifth, intact rocket left, which is in the Science Museum in London now.
It makes you wonder what would have happened if the U.K. would have gone further with their space program. Just like with the M.52 and the TSR2, what would have happened? It might have had a great impact on British technology and their position in the world if those aircraft actually would have flown. The Black Arrow might have been a good launch vehicle for ESA. Who knows.
Anyway, the rocket triggered my imagination. So I started a little build. The Black Arrow wasn't exactly big: two metres in diameter and thirteen metres high. So, in 1/96th it will not become a biggie. This model has been designed by Niels Knudsen and is downloadable at his website. He also has lots of other interesting pioneering rocket models. Check them out some time. They really are good.
|The first stage. I printed it on brushed aluminium coloured paper.|
|The glossy nose cone was made orange red for visibility reasons. Actually, there wasn't that much black about this rocket at all. I used photo paper to get the glossy result.|
|I used beads to imitate the ball-shaped combustion chambers of the eight rocket nozzles. Those eight nozzles were connected to only one core engine. So it actually was one engine with 8 nozzles.|
|Left and right from the nozzles are the two exhaust pipes of the turbo pumps.|
|I used little leftovers from pins to get a bit of an idea of all the plumbing around the nozzles. The original also was not exactly looking tidy and comprehensible.|
In the meantime, here's a short story of the Black Arrow and the engineers that build it :
See you soon.