Black Arrow

Black Arrow satellite on launchpad at Woomera

here shown on the launchpad at Woomera.


Black Arrow schematic A schematic of the launcher is on the left.

The first stage is 2.0m in diameter, with 8 Gamma rocket motors. The second stage used 2 Gamma motors. The third stage was a spherical solid fuel motor called Waxwing, designed as an apogee motor. This meant that it was ignited at the top of the trajectory to give a sufficient velocity boost to inject the satellite into orbit.

There were four firings of Black Arrow from Woomera.

R0 was launched on 28 June 1969, but developed a large rolling oscillation immediately it was released from the pad. The fault was an open circuit in the feed back loop which controlled one of the motor pairs. As a result the guidance system was not able to correct the motion. At about 64 seconds into the flight, the control system could not cope and the vehicle tumbled. One of the payload fairings broke away, followed by the payload, then the Gamma 8 ceased thrusting. The vehicle was destroyed by ground command when it was at an altitude of 9000 feet on its descent.

The response of the motor pair concerned was normal up to about 4.1 seconds after opening the first stage engine start valve, 0.5 seconds before the release jack was opened. Loss of the signal meant that the pair of motors concerned would swing to their full extent and back again on receiving a correction. The fault was successfully simulated back in the U.K, and modifications were made.

R1, like R0, had live first and second stages, but no third stage. It was launched on 4 March 1970 and was completely successful.

R2 was launched on 2 September 1970. The first stage was completely successful but the second stage shut down 15 seconds early, leaving 30% of the HTP unburned. This turned out to be due to a leak in the HTP pressurisation system. The third stage separated correctly, and fired, but the velocity was insufficient to reach orbit, and the payload crashed into the Gulf of Carpentaria. Various other malfunctions plagued the flight, including problems with the attitude control system and one of the payload fairings not separating until third stage spin up.

R3 launched the Prospero satellite (X3) into orbit on 28 October 1971, in a text book launch. The programme had meanwhile been cancelled on 29 July 1971.

Prospero had a mass of 66kg, and was launched into an orbit of perigee 557 km, apogee 1598 kg, and an inclination to the equator of 82 degrees.

R4 was never fired, and is now on display in the Science Museum, Kensington.



a schematic of the Waxwing solid fuel apogee third stage.




The payload shrouds about to close on the Orba satellite.



Orba was a simple sphere designed to study the atmosphere at altitude by looking at the orbital decay. Money was so tight at Space Department that it had to be put together from spare material lying around.
It was launched on R2, which failed to orbit [see above].



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