|The Constellation Program's Ares I-X |
test rocket roars off Launch Complex 39B
at NASA's Kennedy Space Center
Image credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann
Sadly, Ex Astris tech genius Jeremy Briggs, who wrote a piece on the British Rocket Programme for Spaceship Away (it’s in issue 12 if you would like to read it – back issues are still available) tells me the answer is almost certainly no.
The problem mainly boils down to Britain’s location on our planet. Most satellites are put into an orbit that spins with the planet and the planet spins anticlockwise looking down on it from the north pole. This spin of the Earth to the east is used by rockets to get a little extra momentum for free by launching them to the east.
Therefore you need a launch site which is clear to the east (normally ocean) like NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre or the European Space Agency’s Kourou, which both allow spent stages to fall into the Atlantic Ocean.
“Launching from the Isle of Man would leave spent stages or failed launches falling on England,” our resident boffin expands. “The UK does not have any good potential launch sites because of our geographical location – Shetland is the only likely candidate and that is very remote but even then, the Scandinavian countries would complain.
“The rocket engine test sites used for the Blue Streak, Black Knight and White Arrow rockets were Spadeadam near Carlisle and the Isle of Wight because they were accessible but poorly populated,” he continues. “There was never any suggestion that launches would take place from either of them.
“The spin of the Earth is used by rockets to get a little extra momentum for free and the most spin occurs where the surface of the planet is spinning the fastest – the equator. However, most of the equator is ocean and the land is mainly third world countries. Therefore, most of the space countries set up rocket launch sites which are as close to the equator as is possible in their own territory. This was a problem for the USSR, who also needed their site to be secret ie far away from NATO spy planes, and they ended up building in a desolate land locked area at Tyuratam instead.
|Tas and the Space Machine, the first of |
two "Tas" books
published in 1955 and set at Woomera.
Image via www.fantasticfiction.co.uk
So, no spacebase near Blackpool then, although of course Britain does contribute to the ESA and British-born astronauts have gone into space. Plus, of course, private space company Virgin Galactic‘s owner Richard Branson is both British and a Dan Dare fan!
Fictional private space companies, of course, play a major part in Ex Astris…
• The British Space Program: Wikipdia
• British National Space Centre
• History of British Rocketry
• Information on Blue Streak
• Virgin Galactic
• Author Reginald Alec Martin on Collecting Books and Magazines