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The Blue Streak Rocket


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Duration 14min 50sec
Release Date 1964
Sponsor Central Office of Information for Foreign Office and Commonwealth Relations Office
Text version of this film





In 1955, Britain began developing a long-range liquid-fuelled missile, the Blue Streak programme. Designed to deliver nuclear weapons, as part of Britain’s independent nuclear capability, work focused on producing an intermediate range missile. This single stage silo-based missile was intended to have a range of 2,500 miles.

In 1960, however, the Blue Streak programme was scrapped. The British Cabinet Defence Committee were reluctant to spend an addition 600m on top of the 65m already spent for a delivery system that proved to be militarily inadequate after testing.

The main problem with the Blue Streak was that it was launched from fixed sites, which took up to thirty minutes to prepare for launch. Vulnerable to Soviet attacks and suffering from escalating costs, Britain’s independent nuclear missile programme floundered.

Although Blue Streak’s life as a military weapon had ended in 1960, it was immediately assigned to the European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO) project. This utilised the Blue Streak rocket as the first-stage of a composite space vehicle designed to deploy satellites in orbit. This project was intended as a European to challenge the American and Russian monopoly on satellite launchers.

In 1967 Britain announced that it would pull out of the ELDO programme in 1971. The last Blue Streak programme launch was on 12th January 1970 and the last ELDO Blue Streak launch was carried out in French Guyana in 1971. By April 1973 the ELDO project was cancelled and replaced with the European Space Agency that is running to this day.

This film charts the story of Blue Streak from its first static firing of the rocket engines to the first flight test in Australia on June 5 1964. Four other first-stage launches were carried out successfully, but test launches of second and third stages proved unsuccessful.



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