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UK’s Only Orbital Rocket to be Showcased on Moon Landing Anniversary

Duncan MacRae


Orbital Rocket

The Black Arrow rocket will make its debut south of the border, 50 years after humans first landed on the Moon on the 20th of July 1969.

The only UK-developed rocket to reach space and place a satellite into orbit will make its first appearance in England this weekend (19-21 July) since being recovered from its Australian landing site.

The Black Arrow (R3) rocket is set to be displayed at the 2019 Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford – the world’s largest military show – just 92 miles from its programme’s original test site on the Isle of Wight.

The rocket was brought to Scotland from its landing site in the Australian Outback earlier this year by rocket developer Skyrora, almost half a century since its launch.

Completing four rockets between 1969 and 1971, Black Arrow’s third flight marks the only successful UK-led launch and serves as a representation of the UK’s potential in the new global space race.

The theme of this year’s RIAT, ‘Air & Space: Inspiring the Next Generation Air Force’, will see the three-day event focus on Britain’s growing space sector. Major Tim Peake – the first UK astronaut to visit the Space Station – is also due to attend.


Vladimir Levykin, CEO at Skyrora, said: “Black Arrow represents an integral part of Britain’s space legacy and so it seems only fitting that it be displayed at this year’s RIAT.

“Even 50 years since its original launch, Black Arrow acts as a reminder of what has been accomplished before – and an inspiration of what the new UK commercial space race is capable of.

“The team at Skyrora are strong believers that as we navigate this new and exciting time in the UK space industry, it’s important to reflect on and learn from our previous successes.

“Consequently, our engine systems are inspired by Black Arrow’s proven technology.”

Recognising the parallels between Black Arrow and Skyrora’s own future orbital launch vehicles – which use the same HTP propellant combination – the firm transported the rocket 10,000 miles across land and sea to inspire the next stage of the UK space race.

Black Arrow’s groundbreaking technology is evidenced by the rocket’s successful orbital launch in 1969, with its sophisticated engineering far ahead of its time. Skyrora hopes to celebrate the programme’s innovation by displaying Black Arrow at events such as the RIAT.

Andy Armstrong, chief executive of RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises, organiser of the event, said: “We plan to demonstrate, through engaging and interactive displays, how space technology is being deployed and how it is helping counter threats to our everyday lives.

“Our focus on space will be particularly poignant as the 2019 airshow will take place on exactly the same day, 50 years ago that the first Moon landing took place – on July 20 1969.”

Committed to inspiring the future generation, Skyrora has signed up to the STEM Ambassador Programme and visits schools across the country to teach students about science and engineering, as well as helping a group offer 250 Welsh Brownie’s earn their ‘space badge’ earlier this year.

Katie Miller, Skyrora STEM Ambassador, said: “Inspiring the younger generation is a serious and important job at Skyrora – we are essentially unlocking the future of the UK Space generation.”

Skyrora is currently looking for locations across the UK for its upcoming three launches. Two of the three launches will be capable of reaching the edge of space, a feat never accomplished by a private company launching from the UK before.

The firm aims to complete the inaugural launch of its Skyrora XL vehicle from a British spaceport by 2022, using technology similar to that of the Black Arrow’s launch over 50 years ago.

Miller added: “RIAT gives the UK space industry a great opportunity to participate in the celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing. By bringing Black Arrow to the party we hope to help raise awareness of the UK’s once world-leading space programme that Skyrora is seeking to revitalise.”

Duncan MacRae


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