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Next week marks the 50th anniversary of the UK's one and only satellite launch on one of her own rockets - Prospero, aboard the Black Arrow. In-flight photos of the Black Arrow look odd because there are no visible engine bells - these are concealed by a tail skirt.

enter image description here

What are the engineering advantages/disadvantages of doing this?

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  • $\begingroup$ Oh, that's why the photo looks so strange! I've admired it for years but could never figure out exactly why it doesn't look like a rocket to me. I'd always assumed it's the missing visible exhaust, but no, it's the flat, featureless base. Thanks! btw more similar images here: How did the kerosene-burning Black Arrow have transparent exhaust? (seems to just "hover" in photos) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Oct 23, 2021 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ One observes that that skirt is no mere covering, it seems to be metal, and thick metal at that. It is quite possible that the rocket rested its entire mass on that skirt. Bear in mind the rocket nozzles are very short, the "skirt" section is only the glossy last 1/4-1/8th of the bottom cylindrical section, below that black stripe. $\endgroup$ Oct 24, 2021 at 7:14
  • $\begingroup$ aha, there it is.. The Black Arrow has that skirt for the same reason that StarShip has a similar skirt. It is an interstage. Black arrow was intended to be orbit-capable by itself, but was also envisages as being boosted by the Blue Streak first stage, in effect becoming the second stage of a 4-stage rocket! $\endgroup$ Oct 24, 2021 at 7:26

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The Black Arrow has that skirt for the same reason that StarShip has a similar skirt. It is a (non-dropped) interstage.

Black arrow was intended to be orbit-capable by itself, but was also envisaged as being boosted by the Blue Streak first stage, in effect becoming the second stage of a different orbital rocket of greater capability, called the Black Prince.

from the articles listed below:

Blue Streak would have become the first stage of a projected all British satellite launcher known as "Black Prince": the second stage was derived from the Black Knight test vehicle,

As neither the Black Arrow nor the Blue Streak went very far into development, we never got to see this combination, but there is some discussion of its development at http://everything.explained.today/Black_Arrow/
and
http://everything.explained.today/Blue_Streak_(missile)/
and
http://everything.explained.today/Black_Prince_(rocket)/

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! It all makes sense now. $\endgroup$
    – GordonD
    Oct 24, 2021 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ @user44085 could you say that again, in English please? $\endgroup$ Oct 24, 2021 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ @PcMan I suspect it means that the Black Prince could have been used instead of Ariane. $\endgroup$
    – GordonD
    Oct 25, 2021 at 8:34
  • $\begingroup$ It was designed to capable of use as a second stage to Europa, in the event the French withdrew. Given Blue streak was the bit of Europa that actually worked they should have stuck a Black Arrow on top, but Britain was to poor to sustain a rocketry program. $\endgroup$
    – user44085
    Oct 28, 2021 at 0:42
  • $\begingroup$ It may seem to be splitting hairs, given that blue streak was the first stage of both Europa and Black Prince, but Black Prince's second stage would have had a 54 inch second stage, compared to Coralie's (and Black Arrow's) 2 metre diameter. Further, Black Arrow built on the work done for Black Prince. Black Knight had a 34 inch diameter. $\endgroup$
    – user44085
    Oct 28, 2021 at 1:13

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