The Black Arrow & Britain’s Rocket Program

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It’s been 50 years since the first successful suborbital flight of the British designed and built Black Arrow rocket. Ultimately it would prove its ability to launch satellites into low Earth Orbit before being cancelled, but there’s a lot to talk about. The Propellent choice of High Test Peroxide and Kerosene is not one we see very often but it has some very interesting advantages over more conventional choices.

Lots of info on British rockets is available on Nicholas Hill’s site:

Gamma 8 image in thumbnail by Andy Dingley

  1. David Beal

    Love getting into the geeky technical side with your videos. Thanks!


    Dear Mr.Manley sir, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your old Eve videos, I recently started playing Eve after watching 30,000 virtual space ship and am really enjoying it. I am not a fighter jockey and find the slow plodding grind of a miner very relaxing. In my first 20 days, I have started my spreadsheets and made almost 20 mils Isk. Not a huge amount, but for an old git like me (60+) its good plus I can listen to some of your older works.

  3. ometec

    People don’t realize looking back just how short resources still were 20, 25 years after the war with all the reconstruction. rograms like this were an actual luxury for England.

  4. Radio Active

    I clicked on the video because I saw the pic and thought “Cool, the Brits have developed ‘anti-gravity’ technology.” :)

  5. Craig Collings

    I feel a new Rowan Atkinson series coming on…

  6. Nick Oakley

    I remember as a kid living near the Scottish border, periodically hearing the sound of Blue Streak engine testing at Spadeadam. Surprised you didn’t mention this!

  7. Lin Yen Chin

    Fantastic oration today and the storytelling was also great. Thanks for the info!

  8. Darcy Moloney

    I’ll have you know it was really an Australian rocket program. Everything important happened over here

  9. rybářská vrána

    so we might see a kilt or two dropped on the Eiffel Tower. thanks for the video.

  10. tommy aronson

    Damn amateur. Why would you spend years building a car, and just throw it away?

  11. Anthony Perkins

    Love the channel, Scott!

  12. Canofasahi

    The lipstick rocket!

  13. BMrider75

    Thanks Scott. Hugely informative, as always.

  14. Odysseus Rex

    The question I have always had was, why did they paint it red when it was called the *Black* Arrow?

  15. JD vlog

    they should have called it “Lipstick” instead

  16. Kevin Street

    Oh wow, this is a great video! Thank you for making it.
    What a fascinating thing. It’s like a secret history. The British had their own rocket program that made its own unique design choices (that have never been replicated since), and it sounds like things were going pretty well. Then they just… decided to stop.

  17. Gustav Gnöttgen

    The bottom side looks like my wood gas stove but with a weird pressure cooker inside it.

  18. wojteqj

    It has just hit me: I’d kill for Scott Manley and Amy Shira Teitel (vintage space) collaboration on old space programs, people behind them and hardware

  19. Jay H

    When did worm moon come from ,first for me and I’m way older than you

  20. Stylobic54


  21. Martin D A

    I’ve been waiting for this…..Weeeeeeeeeeee!

  22. midlife krisis

    Do any of the Scottish companies have A time line? If so what effect will Brexit have on them? I.E. supply chains ECT.

  23. Avatart

    *red rocket*

  24. AniMageNeBy

    Interesting. I must say, I prefer your space-vids above that of the “everyday astronaut’s” and others that dwell in the same domain.

  25. kahlzun

    My grandfather worked on the Blue Streak! Never realised that it was a space rocket!

  26. radius55

    You talk about launch failures enough that it would be really cool to have a video on the various launch abort methods. Not the escape methods for crew vehicles, but the self destruct in the event of loss of control. Something going into how it’s decided to abort, what signals are passed back and forth, and the actual mechanism for turning a hundred plus tons of fuel, oxidizer, and payload into confetti

  27. Matthew Barry

    Doing my national exam history project on this

  28. skaltura

    good full disclaimer there about being biased :D (Y)

  29. zapfanzapfan

    Metric and Imperial in the same rocket? It’s miracle it didn’t crash on Mars! :-)

  30. somthingbrutal

    i remember hearing about this but didn’t realise it ran into the 70’s

  31. Charles putnam1982

    I was despairing of ever be able to see a doc on Britain’s rocketry !

  32. Jesus H Christ

    Hey Scott, love you. 😂🤣

  33. gsmontag

    Thank you for covering my favorite rocket! I’ve always wanted to work on a rocket engine based on it using HTP in a closed cycle.

  34. sidharth cs

    Britain : wants engines
    Rolls Royce : YES

  35. captainkiddoregon

    Well another problem was that they flew on the left side of the sky.

  36. underwaterdick

    The “Wight Aviation Museum” on the Isle of Wight have been making a full scale replica of the Black Arrow rocket, and are trying to get their facility sorted to display it.
    A project well worth donating to.
    Check out their website.

  37. Cameron Sours

    11:55 The fourth one… Stayed UP!!

  38. James Fry

    Ah yes, the Lipstick Rocket!

  39. K1W1fly

    The satellite name, Prospero, was a dig at the cancellation of Black Arrow. It comes from a character in Shakepsear’s play “The Tempest” who is a magician who gives up his magic powers.

  40. Jim's videos

    4:01 Whitworth hardware throughout, knowing the English.

  41. roidroid

    1:20 it’s so weird to see *hand-drawn* blueprints for rockets, with casual hand-drawn text labels. It’s messing with my head, my brain expects nothing but computer renderings or x-ray views when it comes to rockets.

  42. Luke Turner

    1:10 “put it on ice” and ICE-e.b.m. … unintentional pun?

  43. Kevin Spencer

    “None of that Yankee cacaphony and smoke-laden pish-posh! Let’s make a rocket that rises with some peaceful DIGNITY, man! “

  44. Bernard Gilbert

    Hmmm🤔 I suppose they never had a program called “The Black Adder” 😂

  45. P5ychoFox

    Jeez at the beginning when you said fifty years ago I anticipated a date in the 1950s! What bloody year am I in? Must be getting old.

  46. macro deth

    This rocket looks very Thunderbirds!

  47. 8-Bit Music´s

    finally, good info in this is so hard to find

  48. Adrian

    KSP on my left screen, Scott Manley on the right
    Just how I like it

  49. CONCERTMANchicago

    *Aye Scottie, Scottish engineers are the best!*

  50. Adrian Farcas

    Both Plesetsk and Kapustin Yar are in Europe…

  51. Deric Anthony

    I was hoping you would mention the fun fact regarding the name Prospero. Prospero is a character in The Tempest by Shakespeare who vows to abandon his magic powers once he achieves his goals. Which is quite fitting! Great Video though!

  52. Eric Larkin

    9:50 “If you could just go ahead and push this rocket out to the pad, that’d be great.”

  53. crush537

    Reminds me of the Avro arrow and politicians screwing up everything they touch.

  54. PerfumedManatee

    The Empire fell over and we had not economy

  55. Sid Stevens

    Australia was actually the third country in the world to launch its own satellite into orbit using a left over American Titan rocket after the yanks finished testing 7 Titan rockets destined as ICBM’s here at Woomera, South Australia. Very few people know this as the tests were highly secret at the time and the yanks may not have approved

  56. Will Bailey

    I’m a U.S. Citizen with no skin in the game shall we say with regards to national ability or pride…yet still this video makes me cringe at the decision to cancel the rocket.

  57. De Cam

    When ‘Dan Dare’ was a valid career option.

  58. Chris Stockdale

    The Brits seem to have great ideas, but swaying Government always gets in the way.

  59. SolarWebsite

    “Particular national persuasion”
    LOL 🤣

  60. Josh_from_Canada

    12:20 What about Plesetsk Cosmodrome?

  61. Neil Ferguson-Lee

    Scott, when you next come back to the UK, you MUST visit the Solway Aviation Museum. There’s a section of Blue Streak rocket on display (sadly outside) and various pieces of equipment such as turbopumps on display. I would be delighted to show you!

  62. beeble2003

    7:11 1965 All-England limbo champion.

  63. Max K

    1:32 I can’t decide if “Green Cheese” or “Green Satin” is my favorite name.

  64. Rohail Fai.

    Me expecting @DJSnM’s next video to be about the new rover.

  65. Brent Boswell

    Put Wallace and Grommet on it! You’ll have a lunar capable manned (and dogged) space program in no time.

  66. LMixir

    Scott: Explains how the first stage used metric units and the second and third stages used imperial
    Me: Hello, Dr. Snidely, fancy meeting you here!

  67. Mason O

    Congrats on 1 million subs Scott Manley, I’ve learned so much from you since those beginning days when I barley could get a Kerbal rocket into low Kerbin orbit! I still think you could have a career in narrating shows for television! Looking Back On Cassini-Huygens is still one of my favorite videos of yours. Wish you much more success.

  68. Demon orb

    I’d love to be an engineer on uk rockets.
    I’m just an engineer on claped out old (not vintage) light aircraft.
    I guess it could be worse!

  69. GURken

    Plesetsk is closer to a european geographical center than scottish spaceport.

  70. Michael Morley

    I would love to see a Scots launch vehicle, resplendent in its Black Watch tartan roll pattern, soaring above the Highlands.

  71. David Young

    So much of this footage reminded me of thunderbirds.

  72. Peanutbudda

    I just heard about the “mini moon” temporarily orbiting earth, and was thinking about the possibility of a future mission to capture one of these small objects in a stable orbit.
    Would it ever be reasonable to attempt to bring a small object in a temporary orbit into a stable one? To study, or as a proof of concept for mining or collision avoidance?

  73. Stitched closed Mouth

    I live in Scotland I like rockets England struggling to build a train atm sooooooooooo yeh we can hope I guess

  74. Umi

    When 1970 is 50 years ago.

  75. Gil Wanderley

    5:11 So, the British made a steam powered rocket?

  76. Alex Landherr

    “Black Prince”, not Blackadder?!!

  77. Tasteless TV

    I saw this in the London science museum. Pretty cool

  78. Rick Rubenstein

    The biggest surprise for me was learning that Scott likes rockets.

  79. SSA Top Star Junior Jayden Bryant - AX49

    There’s a ‘lipstick’ rocket on static display at Woomera, South Australia.

  80. Adam Churvis

    The Brits had a rocket program? Seriously?
    “I say, Dickie, electrical systems up to snuff?”
    “Everything tip-top in hydraulics, Nigel?”
    “Well if it weren’t tip-top, it’d be right there on your warning board, innit?”
    “Fuel pressure, Ian?”
    “Almost to full pressure, gov. About eight under optimum.”
    “Bruce, tell Kevin to increase pressure.”
    “Mrs. Nesbit?”
    “Yes, dear?”
    “Put the kettle on!”
    “Yes, dear.”
    “Byron, best lower that cabin temperature a tidge.”
    “I’ll give it a right rum go, sir!”
    “Excellent! Now, how are we doing in cooling systems, Scotty?”
    “We tried dousing her with water, but that did nay work, so we’ve kitted her up with a bonnie jacket soaked in good Scotch whisky.”
    “So you’re trying to employ cooling by evaporation?”
    “But… aren’t you afraid that it might, you know, sort of… explode?”
    “But sare, it’s whisky! And those lads in the rocket are Scotsmen all! If the Good Lord sees fit to destroy three Scotsmen good and true with whisky from their own homeland, then I suggest we’re all fooked for starters, sare. Do ye nay see me point, sare?”
    “Bloody brilliant thinking, Scotty!”
    “Thenk ye uncoly, sare! Can I offer you a drink of good Scotch whisky?”
    “Perhaps after the launch, but don’t let me stop you.”
    “Oh, aye, sare, but I don’t think you could.”
    “Right! All systems are go, so let’s not bollocks this right up. We’ve got three jammy bastards in that bucket of bolts going into space, if we’ve got anything to say about it, so now’s the time to show you’re ace at what you do.”
    “Mrs. Nesbit?”
    “Yes, dear?”
    “Start the countdown.”
    “Yes, dear. Five… four… three… two… one… Ignition. Here’s your tea, dear.”
    “Oh, thank you very much, Mrs. Nesbit…”

  81. charga600

    Such a shame this project never reach its full potential

  82. riley mcpherson

    Scotland: we’re launching rockets now!!
    Scott Manley: I’m moving to Scotland!!!!

  83. annoloki

    British rocket development went the same way as its aerospace… destroyed by underhanded American influence. In the case of the latter, this did result in the US gov passing the “foreign corrupt practices” law, but the former was just an offer that was revoked once the black arrow program had been cancelled. As for the satellite it delivered into orbit, yes it’s still there, but hasn’t worked since America nuked it. Well, they nuked space, and we discovered what happens to ionised particles and satellites when you do that by it destroying the satellite’s electronics. If I sound a little bitter, yeah… grew up thinking rockets and space were for these other people in far away places, we couldn’t do that… only to later learn otherwise… that we could have had rockets and space **hmph**

  84. David Sorell

    I’m from South Australia and the Woomera launch pad is the main reason that the Australian Space Agency will be in Adelaide so that means I already know what I’m doing with my life.

  85. Dan Ellis

    Hopefully space will be returning to the UK, there’s a planned spaceport in Cornwall at Newquay airport that’s going to host Virgin Orbit’s 747

  86. MrGonzonator

    I hope they pull off the Scottish launch site, its probably the only chance I’ll get to take my kids to see a real rocket.
    Lang may yer lum reek, Orbex!

  87. Stephen Robertson

    Alan Bond who founded the air-breathing rocket engine developer Reaction Engines worked on Blue Streak and Black Arrow, so if a Sabre powered orbit capable launch vehicle ever flies, there will be a direct link between Black arrow and that launch vehicle – which is sort of poetic justice. As has been said elsewhere in this thread, the UK has had this habit of abandoning amazing technology just as it’s about to be successful… Miles M52, TSR2 and Black Arrow to name a few.

  88. Alexander Batyr

    The Lipstick Rocket!
    The rocket designed ahead of its time.
    The was no small satellites yet, but genius small cheap and simple rocket launcher without complicated cryogenic fuel!
    It’s actually my favorite rocket.

  89. SkylersRants

    Britain decided after WWII that they didn’t want to be Great anymore. It’s been sad to watch.

  90. Wallace

    I almost can’t watch – it really annoys and saddens me how we just walked away from this.

  91. turarwanaa

    “Green Cheese – nuclear anti-ship missile”
    Seems about right !

  92. Just Vienna

    The Rocket program failing is a great metaphor for the UKs industrial and political capacity the last 100 years

  93. Goldie644

    The British Government has a long history of cancelling things just as they come to fruition, leaving other countries to then cash in on the market the UK abandoned :(

  94. FlandersNed

    The Prospero satellite was named intentionally because the Black Arrow was being cancelled – it was deemed fitting to have the satellite be named after the sorcerer who decided to give up their magic.

  95. max Jives

    “So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, and then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up.”
    -M. Python, The Holy Grail

  96. wcj gibbs

    As a brit, and a rocket enthusiast, I find it physically and emotionally painful to watch this video.

  97. Howard Rose

    My grandfather was one of the lead engineers on this for 10+ years and was part of the team that designed the radio communications systems. He went to Woomera numerous times (and recalled the first computer he ever saw there which took up a whole building!) and partook in a lot of the tests at Woomera, Spadeadam and the Isle of Wight for all iterations of the project. He was gutted when the programme was cancelled, stating cheap satellite launch vehicles would be the future of all communications. After the project was cancelled, most of the engineers were headhunted and ended up in the USA. However a lot of the tech from this (or the ELDO part at least) ended up in Ariane. He later went on to work for DRA, SRDE, RRE and TRE and design the Clansman military radio systems that were in use until fairly recently. I still have a lot of his old documentation, including a nice booklet on the Woomera facility and a couple of the Clansman radios he designed.

  98. Gary IoW

    They tested those rockets at The Needles on The Isle of Wight – about two miles from where I live. I remember climbing around in the test gantries risking life and limb. I can remember dropping things down the flame chute and watching them fly over the cliff. My sisters father in law was the guy who drove the HTP truck. Our local jewelers daughter was a photographer there, she photographed the flame with high speed cameras. One of the engineers was a member of our local amateur radio club. All three are dead now. We used to go rabbiting up there in the 70s and one day the heavens opened, so we took shelter in the shell of one of these rockets that was left lying on the ground.

  99. Arkadeep Kundu

    Britain: We need an engine for something
    Britain: *Rolls Royce*

  100. xassix

    This seems to be a reoccurring theme in british history:
    They achieve a very advantageous position – and then suddenly decide to stop. Kinda tragic.

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