During the dark days of the early Cold War years, Britain was determined to maintain its place as a world super-power. But by the mid 1950s, America and the USSR had learn’t a lot from the Nazi’s, leaving Britain far behind in missile technology. It was decided that the country should build a superweapon, untouchable by Soviet defences - so it did. The de Havilland Aircraft Company would build the body of a missile, while Rolls-Royce would provide the engines.
By 1959, Blue Streak, seen above, was only months away from launch. Meanwhile, a smaller test rocket, Black Knight, was successfully cruising into space time and again. Devilishly expensive, the programme inevitably had its enemies in politics. Their trump card to play lay in the
missiles fueling requirements; needing at least 15 minutes, it was vulnerable to a preemptive Soviet attack. Searching for a solution, engineers suggested sinking the missiles in the seabed off Dover, or putting them on trains. Finally, a brilliantly simple solution was found, they would be buried in
concrete bunkers called silos, a British brainchild all other missile nations would adopt.
The bill however, was still too great and in 1960 the politicians pulled the plug before her first flight. She did in fact go on to fly as part of the European space programme, where to her designers credit, she excelled.
High Down Rocket Test Site on the Needles Headland,
the Isle of Wight, during the late 1950s. The facility was built and run by Saunders Roe, at the time developing the
Black Knight rocket - a technology tester for Blue Streak. Britain was, for a brief period in the late 1950s, a very real contestant in the Cold War’s space race. Black Knight flew 22 times from
the Woomera Test Facility in South Australia, every rocket first test run here, on the Isle of Wight, and every launch a success.