BRITAIN'S FIRST SPACE ROCKET

The story of the Skylark


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1972 July 20



Above:
SL1183 is fired at Aberporth on the Welsh coast, Thursday 20 July 1972
(RAE/BAC/MSSL)

Below: The 1/10th scale launcher model held by the Science Museum
(Science Museum London collection, object 1993-2297\Robin Brand)

Summary: SL1183 was a proving launch from Aberporth in Wales, used to test a new single rail transportable launcher designed by BAC and constructed by RAE Farnborough. The launcher was designed for use in the forthcoming Skylark Earth observation programme, in particular the 1973 Argentine exercise, see SL1182 and SL1181. SL1183 was the second and final Skylark to be launched in the UK.

Preparation:
The BAC/RAE transportable launcher was developed to provide a cheaper solution than the general purpose transportable launcher developed by MAN in Germany, which had been tested by the previous Aberporth Skylark launch in January 1971. (Skylark LT.1). Reference (ii) provides an excellent account and some rare photographs of the manufacture.

At the same time as the original was being constructed, RAE apprentices made a fine one tenth scale model, see also reference (ii). This model (shown bottom right) is currently (2016) in the London Science Museum's 'small objects' storage facility at Blythe House in London, object 1993-2297.  

Flight:
As for its predecessor (LT.1), in order to limit its range, SL1183 was powered only by a Goldfinch II boost motor, the dummy payload being of concrete. Thus the powered part of the flight would have lasted only some 3.6 seconds.

Recovery:
The vehicle would have landed in the sea (Cardigan Bay) a kilometre or two downrange, and there was no recovery.

Results:  The proving test appears to have been successful, as the new launcher was used the following year in Argentina. However it did have one teething problem, as the original screw and nut lifting mechanism tended to seize, and a hydraulic version was designed to replace it.

After the Aberporth proving test, and before being used in Argentina, the launcher was displayed at the SBAC Farnborough Airshow in September 1972.
 

More:
(i)  'Britain's First Space Rocket' book: page 426.
(ii) 
Vincent, Len (2016), 'The Skylark Transportable Launcher', Farnborough Air Sciences Trust Association Autumn newsletter #46 2016, pp.20-22.
(iii) The author has a short video clip of the launch of SL1183, currently available as an email attachment, please contact robin@nfel.co.uk
(iv) Flight International Magazine, 10 August 1972, p.218.

 

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