British interest and activities in space flight and the requirements for its realization were for a long time identified with the British Interplanetary Society, a respected organization founded in 1933, that has regularly published a responsible and sober Journal. The society has recently suggested that the resources of the British Commonwealth be pooled in the pursuit of a British commonwealth Space Exploration Program. 1
In addition to this essentially private space activity, the British Government has carried on development work of direct value to an actual astronautics capability. The most prominent pieces of work are the Black Knight and Blue Streak missile programs.
The Black Knight, a single-state. liquid-propellant rocket vehicle, 35 feet in length, was fired on September 7, 1958, at the Woomera guided missiles test range in Australia. 2 3 This test range is reported to be 1,200 miles long. 4 In this first test, Black Knight reached a maximum speed of 8,000 miles per hour and an altitude of 300 to 400 miles. 5 6
It is reported that Black Knight can reach an altitude of 600 miles, and that an effort will be made over the next year to combine Black Knight with a solid-propellant second stage to reach an altitude of 1,600 miles. 7
The Blue Streak, now in development, is a ballistic missile to be stored and fired from underground, with a range reported to be well over 2,000 miles. 8 A combination of Blue Streak and Black Knight could launch a satellite weighing as much as 1,000 pounds. 9 Such rocket performance also implies a capability to launch instrumented probes on lunar and interplanetary flights.
The British Government has been considering with the Royal Society what further steps should be taken toward a satellite program. This investigation is proceeding under the general premise that any British contribution should be unique and original, rather than something that may repeat what others may have done. 10
1 Industry Report, Missile Design and Development, vol. 4, No. 10, October 1958, p. 12.
2 Black Knight Rocket Fired at Woomera, London Times, September 8, 1958, p. 8.
3 Black Knight Reentry Successful in First Australian Firing Effort, Aviation Week, vol. 69, No. 11, September 15, 1958, p. 33.
4 Space Research Minus Controls Suggested, Los Angeles Times, November 10, 1958, pt. III, p. 1.
5 Black Knight Test Rocket Designed for ICBM Nose Cone Evaluation, Aviation Week, vol. 69, No. 12, September 22, 1958, p. 50.
6 International Cooperation in the Exploration of Space, staff report of the Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration, 85th Cong., 2d sess., October 15, 1958.
7 See footnotes 3 and 5.
8 See footnote 2.
9 See footnote 6.
10 See footnotes 1, 3, 6.
There have been a number of reports of various kinds that claim an active space program in Red China.111-14 According to these reports, an effort is going forward to launch a satellite, or even a Moon rocket, from the territory of Communist China, probably with Russian equipment. There is no information about the nationality of the personnel involved.
The objectives behind any such work, if it is actually taking place, are matters of speculation, but the prestige aspects, as related to Red China's desires for international recognition, would probably be a large factor.
The Red Chinese are apparently cooperating with the U. S. S. R. in the program of observation of Soviet satellites. 15
11 Periscoping the World, Newsweek. vol LII, No. 3, July 21, 1958, p. 12.
12 What's News. The Wall Street Journal, September 30, 1958, p. 1.
13 Red Chinese Space Projects going Forward, Los Angeles Times, November 4, 1958, pt. I. p. 11.
14 From One Who Fled-A Look at Science in Red China, U. S. News & World Report. vol. XLV, No. 19, November 7. 1958, p. 107.
15 Astronautics and Space Exploration, hearings before the Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration. 85th Cong., 2d sess., April 15 through May 12. 1958, on H. R. 11881: L. V. Berkner, p. 1043.