On October 28, 1971 the UK launched Prospero via a Black Arrow rocket from Woomera, in South Australia.
When the Prospero spacecraft was launched atop a Black Arrow rocket on 28 October 1971, it marked the end of an era. A very short era.
Prospero was the first UK satellite to be launched on a UK launch vehicle; it would also be the last.
Ministers had cancelled the rocket project in the run up to the flight.
However, as the Black Arrow was ready, the programme team decided to go-ahead anyway.
1971 was a very difficult year for Britain. Edward Heath was elected Conservative Prime Minister in 1970, having defeated the Wilson Labor government.
The newly elected government had to deal with:
- High employment and inflation - there was a steep rise in
unemployment for the first two years of the Heath ministry.
- Decimal currency was introduced - dispensing with pounds, shillings and pence (L.s.d).
- Scottish nationalism grew as a force.
- Much of the government's attention, as well as the media and public
opinion, focused on deteriorating labour relations, as the government
sought to weaken the economic power of the trade unions.
- The Northern Ireland "troubles" were a significant issue.
- Joining the European Economic Community, forerunner to the European
Union, was a major concern for the Heath government, with the House
of Commons voting in favor to join on the same day Prospero was
- Higher charges were introduced for benefits of the welfare state such
as school meals, spectacles, dentistry, and prescriptions.
With all these issues, the British government couldn't justify spending money of rockets and space exploration and the British space programme was cancelled.
By 1972, British government funding of both Blue Streak (missile) and Black Arrow had ceased, and no further government-backed British space rockets were developed. Other space agencies, notably NASA, were used for subsequent launches of British satellites.