Black Arrow: Britain’s First Ever Rocket Returns Home

The programme was the first and so far only successful British rocket to successfully place a satellite into orbit.

The rocket was launched from Woomera in South Australia (Picture: IWM).

Britain’s first ever rocket to successfully place a satellite into orbit has returned home, after a marathon 10,000-mile journey from the Australian Outback.

The unveiling of the 'Black Arrow' at its new home in Penicuik, Midlothian, comes almost 50 years after it was launched into space.

Built on the Isle of Wight, the Black Arrow programme retains cult status within the scientific community.

While it was built in Britain, the actual rocket was launched from Woomera in South Australia and it was put on display in William Creek, near where it crashed.

Exposed to the harsh Outback elements and damaged by vandalism, space firm Skyrora decided to bring the rocket back to Britain.

Black Arrow rocket on display
The Black Arrow rocket put the Prospero satellite into orbit in 1971.

Daniel Smith, Skyrora’s Director, said: "Today we finally get to give Black Arrow the long-awaited welcome home it deserves.

"We hope it will be a fitting tribute to what we believe to be the most important artefact linked to the UK’s space history.

"It has been some journey - we wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of the William Creek Progress Association and the Australian Government, so we’re extremely grateful to both.

"With the UK government’s aim to make us a launch nation again, it seemed like the perfect time to bring Black Arrow back. We hope it’s a reminder not only to our own team, but to everyone that’s part of the new commercial space race of what’s been accomplished before.

"We really hope the rocket will help to inspire current and future generations of scientists and engineers."

Two members of the original Black Arrow team were among the guests at the unveiling.

Mike Kelleway expressed his surprise at seeing the rocket again:

"I never expected to see it again when I said goodbye to it at the Needles test site on the Isle of Wight."

Black Arrow engineer, Derek Mack, was also surprised to be reunited with the rocket he had worked on.

"The last time I saw it, it was in pristine condition."

Black Arrow rocket returns to UK after 48 years
The UK Government plans to launch a new generation of rockets into space.

Also in attendance was Dr Graham Turnock of the UK Space Agency.

In 2018, the organisation announced plans for £2.5 million worth of funding for a vertical launch spaceport in Sutherland, Scotland and Dr Turnock said: “Black Arrow is testament to Britain’s longstanding heritage in the space sector which continues to thrive today.

“The Government’s Spaceflight Programme includes a series of education and outreach activities which I hope will play a major role in inspiring the next generation of space scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs.”