BRITAIN'S FIRST SPACE ROCKET

The story of the Skylark


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1957 July 23

SL03 is fired from Woomera at 12.32 local time,
Tuesday 23 July 1957. After 21 seconds, it disappeared into the clouds, never to be seen again!
(WRE\ASRI)

Summary: SL03 was the third Skylark launched. This time, as well as the RAE test instrumentation, two photometers (sensitive light detectors), of a type to be used in later experiments by Queen's University Belfast, were flown.

Preparation: The first three attempts to launch SL03 had to be abandoned because of technical problems. Tuesday 23rd July brought better luck, preparations were complete by 10 am, and it was fired at 12:32 local time.

Flight: Unfortunately SL03's run of back luck continued. Although aerodynamically it probably performed correctly in flight, a major mistake was made as it was fired, when an isolation switch was not operated, so the internal batteries were not connected, and the vehicle flew completely "dead".

Recovery: Ground based optical tracking was lost after 21 seconds when the rocket became hidden in the clouds. As a result SL03 was never found!

Result:  The power supply error meant no in-flight telemetry telemetry data was received, and none of the on-board electronic tracking systems worked. However, it was estimated to have reached an altitude of 280,000 feet (53 miles/85 km) and landed some 136 miles (219 km) downrange. It is probably still there!

Seq.
Nos

Launch
date

Ref.
(sponsor)
launch site

Config-uration

Apogee km
(miles)

Experi-menters

Experiments

Res-ult

3
(3)

23 July 1957

SL03
(UK)
Woomera

Un, Raven IA

85
(53)

RAE & Belfast

Test general vehicle & range proving, + photometer trial

Ps Sf

More:
(i) 'Britain's First Space Rocket' book: page 82 onwards
(ii) Dorling (1959), The First Six Skylark Firings, pp.28-32. (RAE Technical Report GW530, Oct.1959)
(TNA:PRO DSIR 23/27687)

                       New Forest Electronics Tel. +44 (0) 1425 650089                 Issue 3.62    20 September 2017