UK Enters Space Race



Was the headline 50 years ago in EW’s edition of February 8th 1961.

The story opens:


‘Final formation is expected within the next few days of British Space

Development Company, a group of eight major electronic and aero-engine companies.’


‘First news of the company, specially formed to exploit British space research, came late last week in a short statement by Sir Robert Renwick. Sir Robert has been lobbying for some time to obtain backing for such a scheme.’


‘The eight member companies so far named are Decca, AEI, ATV, BICC, de Havilland, Pye, Rank and Rolls-Royce.’


‘Capital is £20,000.’



  1. I thought that one of our rockets was used as the 2nd stage of Ariane?
    So far as UKIP goes I’m sure that Mr M would enjoy watching
    enjoy :0)

  2. It is not widely publicised that Britain did produce our space shot. When our engineers in Australia were told by Westminster to stop the Balck Arrow programme and come home they decided “we are so close lets launch anyway” so they did – in 1971 with the hardware due to be decomissioned anyway.
    While we have wasted 50 years the recent UKIP decision to endorse taking the £275 million we waste by putting into ESA & putting it into X-Prizes could certainly get us a commercial launch vehicle able to work on at least a weeky basis.
    The $10 million Ansari X-Prize produced Spaceship One and Virgin Galactic so there is no question that prizes are 33-100 times more effective than funding big giovernment bureaucracies.
    So some hope if UKIP share power after the next election.

  3. Not forgetting Black Arrow, our sole successful homegrown launcher.
    The satellite it launched, Prospero, is still up there.
    It was launched after the cancellation of the project by Grocer Heath & his merry men, purely because it was sat on the pad ready to go.

  4. There were test firings of Black Knights rockets at the High Down Rocket test site near The Needles on the Isle of Wight. The rockets were tested before being shipped to the launch site at Woomer in Australia.

  5. Back in the late 50’s and early 60’s test firings where from the south Wales cost of various rockets but there was always very little info on them (poss Blue Steel?) and When I moved to Hatfield in mid 60’s de Havilland always had some rocket engines under static test that made windows rattle a mile or two away. the old test area is now under part of Hatfield University now! …. Time goes by

  6. If I have it correct, they used to do test firings of rockets on the cliffs of the Isle of Wight, but for actual launches they transported the whole lot to Australia because there was nowhere in good old Blighty that was remote enough to risk an exploding rocket. Then the whole program was abandoned in favour of buying Polaris from the Americans. What a pity, if the program had been continued the UK could now be in a position to sell launch capability to the USA!

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